Lahad Datu Incursion Stop Propagandising The Armed Forces


“It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda tours.”
- George Orwell
Warisan MP Mohamaddin Ketapi’s alleged insult of the state security apparatus is just another footnote in the history of the propagandising and manipulation of the state security apparatus by the political apparatus of this country.
The howls of outrage from folks who claim that they are shocked that a political operative would “insult” the hardworking men and women of the state security apparatus is indicative of the hypocrisy that permeates the political landscape here and around the world.
I despise the use of the state security apparatus as just another tool in the propaganda toolbox of political operatives and civilians who, when politically convenient, either canonise or demonise the men and women who serve the state often at the costs to their lives.
I do not have a romanticised view of service to the country, coming from the school of thought that believes that professional service in the defence of the realm for coin while a noble profession is not one that should be glorified. This is because, ultimately, the profession is bound by political and not altruistic dictates.
Of course, what the Warisan MP said was dumb, but this idea that politics and the security forces are mutually exclusive is complete horse manure. Take the Lahad Datu remarks, for instance. Even former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak got into the outrage act. He wrote in a Facebook post:
"Ini ialah penghinaan sangat besar pada pasukan keselamatan kita yang bertarung nyawa untuk mempertahankan kedaulatan kita, terutama kepada keluarga 10 wira dan 6 warga Sabah yang terkorban."

Oh please. When Najib was the prime minister, he organised a “meeting” with retired flag rank officers organised by BN’s propaganda arm Jasa to “explain” the situation in Lahad Datu before the general elections.
Opposition political operatives were not invited, which was a disgusting display of partisanship but par for the course because the armed forces are highly politicised in this country.
Sources in the meeting claimed it was just another opportunity to bash the then opposition. The retired officers also got a goodie bag to better fit the superficial propaganda event this was. You can read my take on it here as well as some of the post-meeting chatter that found its way to social media, including:
“However, politics had a role in the second part of this meeting. This whole section consisted of rants against those generals who had shown support to the “Opposition”.
A former chief of the defence force, who had cried when criticised by the then-sports minister for his conduct in the Commonwealth Games, went so far as to claim that these generals did not have the same DNA of those supporting the government of the day. In response, one three-star general commented: “Coming from this CDF, the nation should be grateful.”
And let us not forget about the shocking claim made by the then prime minister Najib in a blog post about how our lads had been killed because of “covert enemies” who supplied information to our enemies. He posted:
“We can still remember the incident in Lahad Datu where security forces personnel were sacrificed because there were covert enemies. At that time, the intruders had obtained prior information on the movements of our security forces and ambushed our soldiers in a house.”

Who were those covert agents? What sort of investigations and which agencies were involved in routing out these “covert enemies”? Why weren’t the press and the people of Malaysia notified that our soldiers were killed because of leaked information? Were the families of the soldiers who were “sacrificed” notified that their deaths were the result of an ambush because of leaked intelligence?
For the record, Special Branch officer detective Corporal Hassan Ali Basari was sentenced “to seven years imprisonment, the maximum jail sentence under Section 130M of the Penal Code, for withholding information on terrorism activities in Sabah”.
From press reports: “Although an intrusion had not taken place during the time Hassan was told of the impending intrusion by the protected witness, Ravinthran said the intrusion eventually happened and that security forces would have been ready to stop it from happening had Hassan informed the matter to his superiors sooner.”
These were the words of deputy public prosecutor Nordin Hassan when pressing for a deterrent sentence should also be considered in the discussion of what we know as reported in the press and not merely the words of a prime minister in a blog post.
He said: “The accused’s intention not to inform his superiors resulted in some of our security forces injured and killed while gallantly protecting the country’s sovereignty.”
In addition, let us not forget when Ibrahim Ali wanted a military base to be built in his constituency because he believed that military votes were BN friendly, stating that “a battalion of troops, that’s a lot of voters. Serampang dua mata (kill two birds with one stone). Build it now in the name of national security, sediakan payung sebelum hujan (be prepared)”.
Of course, I found it funny when he also argued that a Scorpene submarine should be deployed to Kelantan because, at that time, PAS was a big critic of the corruption of the BN government. How things have changed. However, Ibrahim Ali was convinced that a Scorpene submarine and BN leaders giving speeches on one would be an impressive sight.
“And if possible, let me give a speech on the deck of the Scorpene to explain the real story to the people, who have been bombarded by PAS ceramah on how the submarines cost billions (of ringgit) and cannot even dive.
“Even the menteri besar (Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat) can get to see it. Maybe even their serban will fly off after they see the Scorpene!”
Add to this, the case of whistleblower former RMAF Major Zaidi Ahmad who claimed that he was dismissed from service, because: “I was just doing the right thing as a citizen and a serviceman… to be disciplined and truthful. However, these qualities were hated by the previous government.
“I was merely exposing the fact that the indelible ink used in the election could be washed off.”
He also lamented the fact that his reinstatement or his pension was not possible under a Harapan government.
“Saya tidak mahu ulas panjang tentang keputusan itu tetapi saya mahu ingatkan pemimpin Harapan agar tidak lupa, mereka kini sudah menjadi menteri, gembira dan boleh menikmati kemewahan.
“Jangan lupa rakyat yang berjuang dan mengangkat anda ke kedudukan sekarang, kerana rakyat yang sama juga boleh jatuhkan anda.”
Two years ago Zaidi was a DAP member, and an information officer at the Penang Chief Minister’s Office and a part-time stevia seller.

To get into the reality of the scandals, statements and shenanigans by the political and security apparatus is beyond the scope of this article. The fact that the armed forces have unfortunately been drawn into financial scandal between the political class and the military establishment is unfortunate for the rank and file grunt.
The fact that the state and political operatives continue to propagandise the armed forces, and the outraged mob that believes it is patriotic to stand up for the armed forces, is demonstrative of the hypocrisy that poisons nuanced discussions.
The reality is that the only people who get the short end of the stick, and I am not talking about those who worm their way up the food chain and have secured plum jobs for their offspring after retirement, are the rank and file grunts in all branches of the armed service.
These men and women find out too late that their service means very little – proper housing, proper equipment and better pay – unless it looks good when politicians or civilians either attack or defend them.
Even then, it means very little.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he hopes young people will assume the mantle of leadership – if there is to be any hope for this country. - Mkini

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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