Military Loyalty is to King and Country, not UMNO

May 25, 2017

It is elementary, military loyalty is  to King and Country, not UMNO

by S.

Image result for king of malaysia 2017


If you feel that strongly about something, you have an obligation to try and change my mind.”

– Aaron Sorkin

While some armed forces personnel – active and retired – have nothing but vitriol for my writings for Malaysiakini, I am glad to report on an anecdotal level at least, there has been far more support – most often qualified – for what I write amongst serving and retired members of our security services.

Image result for Malaysian Forces--Loyalty is to King and Country

Loyalty to King and Country

Anecdotal levels are of course cold comfort when the reality is that most people would rather not say anything unless cloaked in anonymity and people often confuse the echo chambers they live in as the “real world”, which is unfortunately far more complicated and diverse than what they read online.

I have always disliked the propagandising of the security services and while I believe that there are many people who do the hard work of keeping our country safe, they are hampered by the petty fiefdoms of their immediate superiors and hobbled by a self-serving political apparatus. The latter is more interested in maintaining political hegemony than by ensuring that these institutions are independent and serve the people of Malaysia.

The former meanwhile hampers the legitimacy of these institutions by eroding public confidence by its official statements, but more damagingly by engaging in practices that apes the accepted political culture that has resulted in our country being categorised as a kleptocracy.

Malaysian Armed Forces Veterans Association (PVATM) Deputy President Sharuddin Omar’s rejoinder to old soldiers, or in my case old sailors, “to the principle that we are always loyal to the current government” misses the point about loyalty, obligation and serving the country.

On a professional level, while I have always observed the chain of command, truth be told my duty – however, you define it – was always to the men and women under my charge. This of course is old school military thinking but one shared by many old timers who put the welfare of the men and women under their charge ahead of politics, racial or religious. Times have changed, of course.

While many would dismiss this veteran’s association as just another government appendage, I was impressed that they disavowed former soldier Mohd Ali Baharom’s (aka Ali Tinju) racist actions in the strongest possible terms. As reported in the media – “His actions are contradictory and incompatible with the principles and practices of all armed forces veterans in the country.

“In the future, we also hope that the media will only relate the actions of Ali Tinju as that of an individual and a Malaysian civilian, and not that of a Malaysian armed forces veteran,” said the association.

Quoting the Malay proverb “kerana nila setitik, rosak susu sebelanga” (one bad apple spoils the whole barrel), the association expressed hope that its reputation and that of all armed forces veterans would not be ruined by the actions of one man.

Image result for The Corrupt Najib Razak

Many retired armed forces veterans make a distinction between loyalty to the institution and the people who make up those institutions. While I get that principle, I have never been unable to separate the office from the individual. To me, if the person in the office is corrupt then why bother defending the institution? I would much rather channel my energies in advocating change rather than spend my time defending the institution.

Honestly, what really bothers me is not that the “gomen is corrupt” but rather that our security apparatus is riddled with the kind of scandals that should make every retired armed forces personnel hang their heads in shame. To list the numerous corruption scandals perpetrated by service people is disheartening and we cannot solely blame the hegemon for that.

But what does loyalty to the government mean?

Compromised institutions

Does it extend to postal vote fraud? Remember in 2011, when four retired military personnel admitted they were marking postal ballots on order from higher up? To recap – “The four – Major (Rtd) Risman Mastor, Kamarulzaman Ibrahim, Mohamed Nasir Ahmad and Mohd Kamil Omar – said they were ordered by their commanding officers to mark postal votes for the hundreds and thousands of personnel who were out in the field.

“Their expose today is the second after an ex-army man came forward earlier this month, making a similar claim that he was ordered to mark postal votes for other personnel.”

The problem with advocating loyalty to compromised institutions is that armed forces personnel who have served with distinction and honour are tarnished by those who would dishonour the codes they claim to hold in service of their political masters. Besides the existential threat that a certain religion poses, this has been one of my main themes that I have revisited – unfortunately – over the years.

I wrote about how the armed forces was sinking in UMNO’s quagmire – “(Navy chief) Abdul Aziz (Jaafar), if you remember was one of the service chiefs lined up behind (looking rather sheepish) Armed Forces chief General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin when he made an emotional appeal, which also included subtle threats and comments which were unacceptable, not to mention unprofessional, for an officer holding the highest rank in the military to make. He made this appeal when confronted with accusations by retired service personnel of vote/voter manipulation in the armed forces.”

Another example is when the current Prime Minister had a sit down with retired personnel to discuss the Lahad Datu incident.

As reported to me by concerned retired service personnel – “The whole atmosphere seemed surreal to some who attended. When the Prime Minister walked in, ‘Negaraku’ was sung and the armed forces marching song ‘Barisan Kita’ (which one general quipped ‘Has the song been annexed by Barisan National?’) also got an airing. Apparently, it got quite comical when one retired air force general was frothing at the mouth that stern disciplinary action should be taken against generals who showed support for the opposition, the PM was chuffed up of and reminded those who attended that ‘spirit of this general’ was what was needed.”

These days many young people are speaking up. I am not talking about mainstream oppositional politics. I am talking about young people who rightly feel that current establishment politics is nothing but the same manure but with a different shovel.

What veterans should be doing, and this applies to anyone who has worked in the civil or security services, is to encourage these young people in their efforts to change the paradigm. We had it our way and we should encourage and support those people who truly believe in what this country could be.

Ultimately when we pledged to serve the King and country, our oath goes far beyond loyalty to the government. We are really serving the people of this country and our loyalty is with them. It does not matter if you support the establishment or the opposition, your loyalty should be with the people and not with political elites, especially when they dishonour the institutions you pledged to serve and protect.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

12 thoughts on “Military Loyalty is to King and Country, not UMNO

  1. It is clear that we don’t have a professional military. Our Armed Forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) are branches of UMNO. Our military top brass are UMNO appointees and stooges since the days of Dr.Tun Mahathir.–Din Merican

  2. Well, Pak Din in the armed forces if you wanna be part of the upward mobility group, you have to “carma” and that means cooking and scrubbing the bosses’ kitchens, as well.

    Things have come to that stage. It’s no longer fun to be in the service like the good old days when esprit d’ corps is as per what it’s defined – loyalty, love and devotion for your organisation and friends. Today it’s pure materialism and what you can get out of kowtowing to your bosses. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and the best apple-polisher comes on top.

    We don’t mind someone bright to be ahead of us but not a bloody “dunggu” whose only forte is “mengampu”. I have seen too much of this and I am utterly disheartened.

    Like many, I left before my time was up because I knew my expertise and talent are being sought by those who value my contributions. The carpetbaggers in the army can go and die, for all I care.

    Today, I still have an office to go, work to do and a fitting allowance to boot. I left the service, on early retirement, almost two decades ago. While I am doing a meaningful job, my peers are playing golf and trying to be a good “atuk” to their many “cucus”. What a waste!

    God rewards one’s patience in a weird way. I am not complaining. Many have written me off but I am still around and kicking.


    • Tok Cik,

      Col Zain was an exemplary soldier who did not get very far too since he would bow to no one. Only tin toy soldiers can survive in the army. As a result, they are only good for parades and as Istana Negara security guards. I cannot trust the present crop of generals and our Minister of Defence. They are what we in Kedah call Pak Hanggogs and Laksamanas Bodek. If our security and territorial integrity and sovereignty is challenged, I may have to carry a gun and fight. Probably I can do a better job.–Din Merican

    • Pk Din,

      Col Zain belongs to a different class of officers, a breed that abhors irresponsibility and “bodeking”. The generals today, and I say it with much conviction, as most of them are either my subordinates or my students once, are nothing more but seasoned apple-polishers in the same mold as those in the civil service.

      I am sad but what can I say, as I am equally blameworthy for having trained and produced officers of such calibre.

      Zain, Sani, Lai, Campos, Schubert and perhaps, Kassim (Labumba), were the rare ones whose integrity and professionalism were beyond reproach. Today officers of their calibre will not fit in with the mob and will be ostracized in double quick time.

      There are some non-bumi officers who were once under my tutelage. They stand out in the crowd but, sadly, their career advancement is a matter of conjecture. Some have made it to one and two-star generals but, as usual, are given minor appointments in a Askar Melayu-dominated hierarchy.

    • Tok Cik,

      You did your best but you cannot control the end product. I am sure you had some successes. If we are attacked, I take a gun to fight and defend myself and not rely on the present lot of commanders. I know some outstanding generals like Gen.Sani, Gen.Mahmood Sulaiman, Gen.Jaffar Onn, Air Vice Marshall Sulaiman Sujak, Rear Admiral Thanabalasingam, Col. Cheng Wah, Col. Munip, and Gen Ismail (who told Taib you fuck off as I am in charge). They were very professional and sharp officers.–Din Merican

  3. The only country, in my view, in the World where the military makes an attempt to observe the king & country mantra is Thailand.

    In any case the concept of “king & country” is too abstract, too philosophical, for an ordinary foot soldier or sailor to grasp at a practical operational level.

    Even the writer, a ranking old sailor, (and now full-time socio-political analyst), admits “On a professional level, while I have always observed the chain of command….”

    Well, the chain of command, as far as I know, in any military operation ultimately issues from a political entity. The “why” is always a political decision, leaving the “how” to military planners. No one imagines the king or queen of any modern country personally issues a military order, though of course the monarch may be indirectly involved after being advised “advised”

    In any case the soldier gets his pay directly from the gomen.

    So in my view, the “king & country” mantra is an anachronistic fiction.

    The ultimate test, if ever it comes to that, is how the military behaves, both at a command and rank and file level, if the politicians order an attack on royalty.

    Lessons from history tell us it never ended well for the crown.

  4. Except for their UMNO partisanship, Malaysia’s military is overall still, professional. Otherwise, we would see absurd cases like in Indonesia where military vs police fights are common. While in Thailand, where the current Prime Minister is a self-imposed Military General. ATM is not a hopeless case. I would focus more on PDRM.

  5. The Federal Constitution, the Supreme Law of the land, in article 41 says “the Yang Di Pertuan Agong is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Federation”.

    In Article 137, the Federal Constitution also says the Armed Forces council is “responsible” to the Yang Pertuan Agong in matters relating to Command, Administration and Discipline of the MAF other then is operational uses.
    The members of the Armed Forces council are “personally” appointed by the Agong, except the chairman and secretary and the representative of the Raja2 Melayu.

    The chairman ( minister of defence) act purely as Chairman of meetings without​ any veto powers and the Secretary (KSU of Mindef) works as a secretary of meetings and no more than that.

    The powers given to The AFC in Article 137, goes down to the various sections of the Armed Forces Act 1972, which includes the powers to recruit soldiers, commissioning of Officers, promoting and postings, scheme of Service, pay, Pension etc. PM, minister,and KSU has no powers in interfering with the affairs of the MAF.

    Sad to say many Generals and Politicians do not understand this clear laws.. men suffers.. Veterans worst.. everyone thinks the PM and the Minister and KSU are the champions and life savers of the MAF and the veterans…

    I wonder the Agong and the Raja2 Melayu have been correctly briefed.

    The Armed Forces could be weaken Because it has been run by the Politicians and civil servants since 1963.

    So sad indeed​!

    To UMNO, the Constitution is one big joke. The Agong appoints, yes; but who makes the recommendations. It is the Prime Minister. It was Tun Mahathir who made The Agong and his brother rulers mere rubber stamps. He gave them the perks and pomp and ceremony and shut them up. Even the erudite Sultan of Perak can now only talk,but he has no influence on policy and even on matters of Islam. –Din Merican

  6. If I am still serving I’d rather shoot the Generals instead of Communist.
    Not forgetting Communist are still lurking in the cities. Communist are always Communist.
    Having been serving as intelligence officer during height of Emergency in Sarawak and Northern part of Semanjong as an Infantry Officer and also during Confrontation.

  7. Gone were the days of soldiers like Gen Tun Ibrahim Ismail, Tunku Osman Jewa and Sulaiman Sujak. I fondly remember Gen Sani who was my recruiting officer. He was a Col then. These are outstanding officers and gentlemen.

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