Defence Minister Ismail Sabri has announced that the military will be deployed this Sunday to assist the police in enforcing the movement control order. It was reported that the decision was made during an emergency meeting. Patriot believes the decision is hasty and premature at this moment.
From the flurry of statements over the last few days, and even contradicting an earlier statement made by the chief of the defence force, it appears that the defence minister is only too keen to deploy the military.
Earlier when the chief of the defence force made the announcement that the military would not be deployed for the movement control order, it was to stem fear and confusion among the masses and to calm the mass paranoia of buying household needs – and rightfully so. His announcement would have been decision made after consultation with the three service chiefs, ie the army, navy and air force chiefs.
The defence minister must understand that he does not have the authority to deploy any unit of the armed forces or make any reference to such an act.
The authority lies solely with the respective service chiefs through a consensus being discussed and agreed upon by the Service Chief’s Council (Jawatankuasa Panglima-Panglima) presided upon by the chief of the defence force.
On the government’s movement control order, we believe the police, being the authority to effect the order, has sufficient resources to control and manage the order effectively.
The more than 130,000 personnel, particularly from the General Operational Force who are currently positioned in different parts of the country, can be deployed for such task.
Patriot is confident that the police will professionally execute the task given. After all it is barely three days that the movement control order has been gazetted and the police must be allowed to execute their task.
The defence minister must have full trust and confidence in the ability of our police force who are experienced enough in dealing with internal security issues.
Patriot believes the prevailing situation relating to the government’s effort in controlling the spread of coronavirus is sufficient.
The pressing need is for proper and effective communication to the masses on the need to stay put, to avoid unnecessary travelling and to be disciplined in practising social distancing. The people need to be made to understand such urgency for sacrifice during this two weeks.
Patriot will do our part to help in communicating the necessity to limit movement through our own channels of communication.
A military deployment to maintain order has to be a last resort. The country has an effective and experienced police force that had proven itself to be one of the best in this region, if not the world. It was the police force that succeeded in breaking the Communist Party of Malaya’s organisational structure; with the military and the police paramilitary forces finally weeding them out, leading to the CPM’s laying down of arms in the late 1980s.
It must also be remembered that should a military force be deployed, it will look bad in the eyes of the international community. We do not want the image of the country to resemble a war zone.
Although we are now in an emergency pandemic situation, decisions made must be well thought out and not haphazard, including decisions made during emergency meetings.
Patriot urges the defence minister to be in constant consultation with the chief of the defence force and the service chiefs before making any announcement affecting the deployment of the military.
Retired Brigadier-General Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot)