Commander (Rtd) S Thayaparan released a few salvos against Arned Forces Chief General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin who condemned some army officers for revealing postal vote fraud during general and by elections.
The edited version I am told appeared in the Sun in its Speak Up column. I produce here the unedited version:
Illegitimi Non Carborudam
The recent press conference by Armed Forces Chief General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin on the alleged electoral fraud committed by certain members of the armed forces was the topic of conversation in all the Hari Raya open houses of former and current army personnel I visited. It was noted that the press conference if anything further dented the credibility of the armed forces and there was sense of disappointment at how these allegations was handled by the top brass of the military. Furthermore, the tone in which the general chose to chide those who made the allegations was thought of as highly inappropriate especially of those who had served their country and in the minds of many continue to do so.
Whenever serious charges such as these are made, it is incumbent on the Minister of Defense to make a statement. It’s is highly ironic that these service chiefs were lined up like recalcitrant school boys to face these allegations that effects the credibility of the ruling coalition only to create the perception that they (the military) who are supposedly apolitical were acting as advocates for the political parties that form the government.
General Zulkifeli made a rather emotional pronouncement that the armed force was both professional and apolitical. Then why was his speech laden with partisan political innuendoes? Why is it, then that the first thought that entered the General’s mind when reading the reports in the media was that ‘certain elements” were trying to “attack” the credibility of the armed forces? The general went so far as to cite the fiasco of the Registration Department granting citizenship in 4 hours, allegations that has since proved to be credible.
Instead of attacking those who made these allegations and ominously hinting that said allegations were part of a conspiracy by “certain elements”, the professional thing to do, is to initiate a through investiagon into the matter. As a former naval prosecutor/advocate, I am well aware of the malfeasance that occurs in the military as it does in society in general. Is the general saying that he knows beyond a reasonable doubt that these allegations are fabrications?
What the public deserves and should demand is a thorough investigation into these allegations. What is not needed are lectures on the viability of being elected into office as expressed by the general during this press conference. Again, if the military is truly apolitical that why did the general feel the need to lecture opposition political parties on the nature of public trust?
As a former serviceman I was appalled to hear the general equate the actions of these men as acts of betrayal. Firstly, there has been no investigation into the matter, so it would only be a betrayal if these allegations were proven to be false. Secondly, if these allegations were proven to be true, than these men who are in effect whistleblowers were merely continuing their loyalty to the service and the country. The general’s comments create the impression that these men are persecuted merely because they chose to make their statements at a press conference of a legimate polical party.
If the armed forces is truly apolitical, what is the logical implication when a serving General chooses to characterize the men and the political party who made these allegations as treacherous (without any investigation) when the latter may very well administer the country some day?
One troubling question that seemed to bother most of the armed forces people I spoke to was the deafening silence of the officers who served with the men who made these allegations against them. These officers should have stepped up and set the record straight, whatever that record may be. Instead we get a wall of silence and political parties are left to expose any possible wrongdoing in military matters. Very troubling indeed.
And finally to the question of loyalty. The problem of the armed forces being used for propagandistic purposes is endemic all over the world. The fact is that we in the armed forces accepted the coin of the realm and thus like any other job accept certain responsibilities. We receive many benefits that non military members of the public don’t receive merely because of the often times dangerous nature of our occupation. This is not a sacrifice. A sacrifice is something which is done without thought of reward or benefit. This does not elevate us above the ordinary citizen especially since non military professions like teachers, doctors and social workers for example are as equally important to the safety and general well being of the nation.
General’s Zulkifeli rather plaintive admonishment of ‘how can we be loyal to you if you’re disloyal to us” is unacceptable. Members of the public don’t owe any loyalty to the military beyond that of acknowledging their contribution to the country. This same recognition is warranted for the civil service as well. The public should be loyal to the country and the principles it stands for. The military should be the embodiment of these principles. By making such unwarranted allegations the General has done much damage to the credibility of the armed forces. In essence what the press conference did was create the impression that the armed forces was merely an extension of the ruling political parties and that any who choose to expose the (possible) wrongdoings in the service are treacherous or disloyal.
Commander (Rtd) S. Thayaparan
Royal Malaysian Navy
General Zulkifeli’s and the other service chiefs’ apparent ignorance of the comments made by the late Laksmana Madya Tan Sri Mohammad Shariff Ishak (ABOVE) which was quoted in Bernama as follows “amalan atau sistem undi pos kini tidak relevan berdasarkan keadaan keselamatan di negara ini kerana ia boleh disalah gunakan oleh orang-orang tertentu.
"Keadaan negara kini sudah tidak memerlukan undi pos kerana askar kini sudah tidak ditempatkan di kawasan terpencil dan sekiranya mereka ditugaskan di udara atau laut, mereka boleh dibawa ke pengkalan semasa hari pengundian dilakukan.” demonstrates an egregious lack of professionalism and carries with it the insidious taint of establishment political spin.
Furthermore Commander Thaya was one of the retired military personal who attended a talk given by the late Admiral Mohammad Shariff Ishak, in Kuala Lumpur, where he raised concerns that the armed forces electoral system was being manipulated by interested parties. Anyone who attended the talks which he held in various towns, will then remember the vitriol he directed towards these ‘interested parties’.
So a further question to the current serving Chief of Defense Forces and Service Chiefs, is the late Admiral “treacherous and disloyal” to the country bearing in mind his service during the communist insurgency and the Indonesian Confrontation?
There is personal connection here. The current Chief of Navy one of the Service Chiefs present at the press conference had served under the late Admiral Mohammed Shariff Ishak.
Lastly, I don’t find the pleadings of ignorance by the Chief of Defense Forces and the various Service Chiefs credible since at the time the late Admiral was making these statements, they were of sufficient rank to notice the dissatisfaction emanating for current and retired military personal regarding the electoral process within the military which was vulnerable to manipulation. I chanced upon more quotes from the late Admiral HERE:
Dalam satu forum anjuran Pertubuhan Kebajikan Budi Malaysia (Budi), Laksamana Madya (B) Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia (TLDM) Tan Sri Mohamad Shariff Ishak pula menegaskan amalan atau sistem undi pos kini tidak relevan berdasarkan keadaan keselamatan di negara ini kerana ia boleh disalah gunakan oleh orang-orang tertentu.
Menurut beliau: "Keadaan negara kini sudah tidak memerlukan undi pos kerana askar kini sudah tidak ditempatkan di kawasan terpencil dan sekiranya mereka ditugaskan di udara atau laut, mereka boleh dibawa ke pengkalan semasa hari pengundian dilakukan. Pada hemat saya, mereka ini tentulah lebih memahami persekitaran kerja mereka untuk mengatakan sistem undi pos tentera itu boleh diperbaiki atau tidak.
Tomorrow evening, retired military and police officers are celebrating Hari Raya at the Heritage Club, Hotel Royal Chulan.
The above could be good topics to leisurely sip and masticate over?