Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) applauds Minister of Defence MohamAd Sabu’s decisiveness in setting up “a high level committee to investigate the various alleged scandals which have come to haunt the armed forces” (The Sun Daily, 27 May 2018).
The minister has stated that the committee will probe the alleged wrongdoings to determine if there are grounds for prosecution or disciplinary action.
From the case of the infamous Scorpene submarines, equipment malfunctions, privatisation of military land, procurements at inflated prices, shortage of medicines in military hospitals, the various reported improprieties, to the dissipation of military values and traditions, where officers resort to kissing hands instead of saluting, it is high time the rot stops.
It is true that a lot of our military assets need upgrading. Each one of the service chiefs – army, navy and air force – would want the best and maximum for each own establishment. With our current fiscal squeeze, we need to prioritise in procuring hardware. Military and strategic defence has to go hand-in-hand with our foreign policy.
The current threat lies most in piracy, illegal encroachment into our territorial waters, and the IS threat. As such, our naval hardware – to meet the need of maritime patrolling, counter piracy and cases of kidnapping for ransom, and equipment for cyber warfare – demands priority.
As much as the need for naval craft is a priority, the impending committee needs to look into the contract regarding the purchase of the four littoral mission ships (LMS). In late 2016, Malaysia inked an agreement with China to purchase four such ships for an unknown price tag, but believed to be a total of RM250m, as announced by the then Minister of Defence, Hishammuddin Hussein (The Diplomat, 4 February 2017).
But it was then reported (The Star, 21 March 2017) that Boustead Holdings Bhd was awarded a RM1.2bn contract from the Ministry of Defence to supply the four ships through direct negotiations between the governments of China and Malaysia. The ships are basically lightweight large patrol craft fitted with guns. The price range can easily be checked and compared with different suppliers. For those who know, a price tag of RM1.2bn is way too high.
Patriot commends our new government in placing the East Sabah Security Command (Esscom) directly under the Ministry of Defence. Like many other departments in the Prime Minister’s Office, Esscom is a typical example of an overlapping role with already emplaced military-established organisations in Sabah. Hence, its existence is sheer wastage of monetary and human resources.
The 2013 Lahad Datu incident left behind many lessons to learn. To counter such incidents like a foreign armed incursion, the security forces stationed in Sabah need to be supported with the required supporting arms, and not wait for deployment from West Malaysia after an incident has happened. Rather than procuring new assets, Patriot suggests redeployment of some of the supporting arms from West Malaysia to be permanently stationed in Sabah.
With regard to the honourable minister’s intent of setting up the high level committee, it is necessary that those appointed need security clearance as these are security and defence matters and are bound to be classified. Patriot, with members who had served in the tri-services at different levels and responsibilities, and vetted for security clearance, is ready to assist in whatever way necessary.
We are also prepared to set up committees to assist in exploring how best to help in welfare matters for veterans, and any other matters relating to the Ministry of Defence.
BG Dato Mohamed Arshad (rtd) is president of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan