New Chief, Plan B, Sort Off

SHAH ALAM: New Chief, Plan B, Sort Off. Former National Defence University (UPNM) vice chancellor and Army Chief Gen Zulkifli Zainal Abidin officially took over as the 20th Armed Forces Chief or Chief of Defence Force today (June 20, 2018). Zulkifli took over from Gen Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Nor who is retiring. The change was made soon after the May 9 general elections which saw the previous BN administration replaced by the Pakatan Harapan government led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Gen Affandi (left) and Gen Zulkifli signing the handing over documents at the Defence Ministry today. Bernama

Raja Affandi replaced Zulkifli as the Army Chief in 2013 before his appointment as the CDF in 2016 replacing Gen Zulkifeli Mohd Zin. The change over also led to the appointment of Gen Zulkiple Kassim as the Army chief after Raja Affandi took over as the CDF.

Gen Zulkifli Zainal Abidin. Utusan picture

It is interesting to note that both generals (Raja Affandi and Zulkifli) have been in contention for top posts since 2010 when they were shortlisted for the deputy army chief post. Zulkifli was made the deputy Army chief, and a year later in 2011, he was promoted as the Army chief. In 2013, Raja Affandi (who was then the Armed Forces headquarters chief of staff, a post he held since 2009) replaced Zulkifli as the Army Chief, shortly after the end of the Lahad Datu incident, which led the latter to return to the UPNM for a second stint while still holding the general rank.

Raja Mohamed Affandi

Zulkifli’s appointment as the country top soldier was first reported by the New Straits Times.

An expert in tactical weapons and insurgency, as well as being a sniper, Zulkifli confirmed the appointment when contacted by NSTP, but declined further comment. It is learnt that Zulkifli, who is due for compulsory retirement on Nov 30 this year, had been on resettlement (pre-retirement) leave since May 15 after handing over his duties as vice-chancellor of the National Defence University.

Armed Forces headquarters chief of staff Lt Gen Datuk Abdul Halim Jalal succeeded Zulkifli as vice-chancellor.

“It has been five years out in the cold for Zulkifli, and he is now back in the saddle where he rightly belongs,” said a source.

The source added that it was “payback time” for Zulkifli, who was “unceremoniously” replaced as Army chief with Gen Tan Sri Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor on June 14, 2013.

Zulkifli, who was made Army chief on June 14, 2011, was then re-designated as the university’s vice-chancellor in Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur.

It is not known yet what will happen to the plans laid out by the Armed Forces following the appointment of the new chief though the RMN 15 to 5 plan is looking very vunerable. It will also be interesting to see what Zulkifli will do with the Gempita program. He was involved in the initial development of the program but the first production vehicles were rolled out during Raja Affandi’s stint as the Army chief. Raja Affandi made some changes to the Gempita notably amphibious capability for some of the variants.

One of the first production model Gempita, fitted with the 25mm Bushmaster turret.

Zulkifli’s appointment has also put in jeopardy the succession plan for the CDF post put in place when Raja Affandi’s contract was extended last year. It is likely that Zulkifli will be the chief for at least two years though this may change of course.

*This is an updated version of this post. This post was uploaded earlier due to a scheduling mistake.

— Malaysian Defence

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