RMAF fighter jets scrambled to intercept 16 People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in airspace over Malaysia’s maritime zone on 31 May 2021.
While we may be busy counting the dead and infection rates caused by our much-to-be-desired response to the Covid crisis, the serious intrusion by China’s military may have escaped the people’s attention.
But it is serious. When a conflict breaks out far away, between Israel and the Palestinian territories, we immediately swing into action, burning flags and mocking Israel.
But when the RMAF confirms that the Chinese Air Force planes that violated the airspace over Malaysia’s maritime zone were Ilyushin Il-76 and Xi’an Y-20 strategic transport planes, which can carry out various military missions, the reaction is subdued.
These planes are used to transport material, weaponry or personnel over long distances. Typically, this involves airlifting the required items between two airbases that are not in the same vicinity. These planes allow commanders to bring items into a combat theatre from a point on the other side of the planet.
The Xi’an Y-20 is a large military transport aircraft. The Il-76MD-90A can carry 126 paratroopers with parachutes, 145 personnel in the single-deck version and 225 in the double-deck version.
These planes can transport and land modern infantry fighting vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, self-propelled guns and other equipment for troops.
Will our home minister please address the nation urgently? Will Malaysians rise in defence of the “maruah” (dignity) of this nation? Or shall we pretend nothing is brewing?
Suppose the RMAF flew military planes in airspace over China’s maritime zone without notice, how would China react?
Not only is this latest infringement worrisome, we must consider other factors too, in our determination to protect the nation.
China is now a major source of foreign direct investments in Malaysia. In 2020, investments from China totalled RM18bn. Their presence here needs no further expose.
The argument that we are a small nation and cannot stand up to the big powers is a sham. If we had a strong, democratically elected government, we should be able to protect the interests of the nation.
With carefully thought out, vibrant foreign policies, we should have enough courage to stand up to any form of military infringement, whether by air, sea or land.
Our patriotic spirit won us independence from the British. We prevailed in the Japanese occupation. We overcame a communist insurgency.
So we must now demand answers from the Malaysian government. And China owes us an immediate official explanation.