December 26, 2015
UMNO has become a militarised party?
by Cmdr (rtd) S. Thayaparan
“Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavour to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?”
– Henry David Thoreau
COMMENT: We live in dangerous times and most people do not even realise it. We have become so immune to the constant provocations the UMNO state throws at us that right-thinking Malaysians merely shake their heads at their computer screens and consume the next bit of news in an endless cycle of outrage and apathy.
The problem with this is that the very real danger that the National Security Council (NSC) Act presents is overlooked and sublimated as just another UMNO gambit to remain in power.
This piece of legislation has far-reaching consequences and will shape the destiny of this country and its people. This is far more dangerous than the corruption scandal that has engulfed this regime or the threat of religious extremism that an UMNO-PAS alliance would birth.
This is a piece of legislation that threatens the very nature of the fragile parliamentary democracy of this country. If this sounds hyperbolic (and even to me it does), it is because we have become so used to the idea that in Malaysia nothing is sacred, and cynicism is the language we express our outrage in.
Exercising Ali Tinju style
Before I go any further, I would just like to remind Malaysians, that it is not that we have become a militarised society but rather UMNO has become a militarised political party. We may scoff at the outsourced thugs of UMNO who stir racial sentiments on the pretence of upholding race and religion – but something, deeper and darker has emerged from the long UMNO watch.
An example of this would the Rela controversy two years ago that caused great concern to members of the Armed Forces (serving and retired), which has been forgotten as just another example of UMNO malfeasances. I wrote about this in ‘Rafoc’s objections to use of Army ranks by Rela’.
The relevant passage is as follows: “As one former General said, ‘what is UMNO attempting to do? Create its own personal army?’”
This echoes the thoughts of former Brig-Gen (Rtd) Mohammad Arshad Raji, whose blog I referenced in ‘Malaysian politics – Who dares win’: “The emergence of para security groups conflates national security issues with UMNO political concerns.”
As articulated by Arshad in his blog titled ‘Rela – PM Najib’s final line of defence?’: “And what really scares me was when Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said that ‘when the chips are down, Rela will be with this government to defend the country’. What ‘chips’ is Najib referring to, and what is the threat that the government is trying to defend… external or internal security threat or a political threat from the opposition.”
“In addition, Rafoc was told that Rela has three million members – that would mean they outnumber all branches of the Armed Forces combined.”
What exactly does the NSC Act achieve?
With this in mind, what exactly does the NSC Act achieve and does it support my theory of a militarised UMNO? The following points should be taken into consideration and since this is still a free country, it is up to the reader to judge if I made my case.
1. The council’s function is to formulate policies and “strategic measures” on national security, which includes “national unity”, “socio-political stability” and “economic stability’.
2. Membership of the council consists of the following:
a) the Prime Minister as chairperson;
b) the Deputy Prime Minister as deputy chairperson;
c) the Minister charged with the responsibility for defence;
d) the Minister charged with the responsibility for home affairs;
e) the Minister charged with the responsibility for communications and multimedia;
f) the Chief Secretary to the government;
g) the Chief of Defence Forces; and
h) the Inspector-General of Police.
3. The Prime Minister has a separate mechanism to declare an area “a security area” as opposed to the constitutionally-mandated “emergency”.
4. Constitutional provisions such Article 41, with regard to the DYMM Yang di-Pertuan Agong, shall be the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and other provisions such as Article 137 dealing with the Armed Forces Council and Article 150 for the proclamation of emergency have been ignored.
5. The use of all security branches in areas designated as “security areas”.
6. No oversight when it comes to activities of the National Security Council.
7. The council may operate in total secrecy.
8. Arbitrary powers in “security areas” allow use of violence and deadly force, warrantless arrests, search and seizure, imposition of curfews and a whole host of other measures.
9. Members of the security forces are immune to legal oversight as long as a magistrate is satisfied that persons killed in security areas were a result of operations undertaken by security forces.
10. The NSC has the power to override state authority.
11. The council and security personnel are protected from any civil and criminal proceedings unless done in bad faith (sic). However, since the council operates in secrecy, this effectively renders them immune.
Is there any evidence that there is a separation of powers in this country? Is there any evidence of impartiality when it comes to the state and political parties? Is there any evidence of independent bodies overseeing the conduct of the state?
In ‘Defence of our Realm’, I wrote: “It would seem that Malaysians, or at least a certain section of the electorate, have been suffering under some kind of Stockholm syndrome when it comes to UMNO and the state’s security apparatus.
“Waking up the very real concerns of military involvement in the electoral process has resulted in renewed calls for UMNO political leaders and the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) to unambiguously declare that there will be a peaceful transition of power and that the impartiality of the MAF will remain sacrosanct.”
In my opinion, and I can assure readers on this, there is a growing discontent among the military establishment that the government of the day has for far too long has dragged the Malaysian Armed Forces into its political quagmire.
The NSC Act finally morphs UMNO from a right-wing political party into a militarised party, waiting to declare war on its enemies.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.