New Defence Minister on the Wings?

KUALA LUMPUR: The cyberspace is buzzing that the Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will soon reshuffled his Cabinet. I know many people have a lot of things to say about this but I will not go into that discussion.

However, tongues are wagging that Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will leave Jalan Padang Tembak should the reshuffle happens.

The replacement every one is saying will be Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who is now Home Minister. Since Datuk Seri Najib had surprised us before by choosing Zahid I am not prepared to say that Hishammuddin will go to Jalan Padang Tembak…

–Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 2205 Articles
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  1. As I see it the Minister of Defence is responsible to the Nation that the MAF is capable of carrying its roles and functions as stipulated in our Constitution.

    He should be aware of the regional military development that could threaten the physical security of Malaysia and organize national defence accordingly that is affordable and sustainable.

    The military solution does not lie in the type of expensive military hardware that we purchase for the country but in the will of the population.

    The Minister of Defence is responsible the national will always be there to support the MAF. Otherwise our defence will always look hollow.

  2. When your neighbour is armed to the teeth with pistols, shotguns and all sort of listen devices, can you sleep in peace?It means your physical security is threatened psychologically! Don’t we all know that?

    We don’t have to match him by buying expensive defence systems which later turn out to be white elephants anyway but to look for military solutions from the strength of our own people and the advantages of our physical terrain and environment(if we know how to use them).

    Our political and military leadership better learn fast from the successes of military forces that have less superior systems and yet can beat their foes at their own terms.Remember even the famous Israeli Defence Forces got a beating from the Hezbullah in Southern Lebanon a few years back if you know how to organize your military defence.

    Can we ask our Army Generals how they managed to do that?And therefore stop buying expensive military systems which are useless in our environment.

  3. “Can we ask our Army Generals how they managed to do that?And therefore stop buying expensive military systems which are useless in our environment.”

    Well, that would involve turning Johor into Southern Lebanon. I’m not sure if digging up the Iskandar Corridor to build bunkers, machine gun nests and anti-tank positions while arming the populace with assault rifles, RPGs and mortars, while mining the roads with anti-tank mines and IEDs is a productive use of land in a time of peace.

    Singapore remain our military allies (something called FPDA, my friend) and also economic partners. In case you didn’t know, LKY actually offered to fly in an Aussie heart surgeon when Dr M had a serious heart condition all those years ago.

  4. Are you sure you want to trade in Malaysia’s position as the second most developed economy in S.E Asia for the basket case that is called Lebanon? War will destroy many things, including your infrastructure and your economy. War will also accelerate the departure of the middle class.

    I’m sure Hezbullah is willing to fight Israel to the last Lebanese. The Lebanese army does not like that fact that the Hezbullah is better armed than them and if they were better equipped would love nothing better than to drive these parasitic nutcases out of Lebanon so that they can avoid being caught in the cross fire. Lebanon used to be a nice place in the 1960s. The place has gone to hell since the Lebanese Civil War.

    You might as well invite the Indonesian vigilantes from the People‚Äôs Democratic Defense to defend Malaysia (see: I’m sure they are willing to fight other countries to the last Malaysian.

  5. Check is right, I don’t think Singapore would want to go to war with anybody, they love life so much. Eventhough they are better armed than MAF, do they have the stomach to spill guts? I doubt that. many of us have friends and relatives down south. In fact, Johore would benefit the most when SIN prosper. Then everybody sleeps well

  6. loreng, Malaysia has it’s own threat perceptions and so does Singapore. I’m baffled why many Malaysians like to go on and on about the Singaporean threat. The threat is from
    non-state actors like terrorism and guarding out waters and borders from encroachment, not from any neighbour. The country we should be watching out for is Indonesia not Singapore.
    Look at your history, which country opposed the formation of Malaysia, and tried to destabilise us with the Konfrontasi. Which country had a large number of citizens who beat the war drums when the Jerong class FAC was led out from their waters near Ambalat??

    Anycase, until we get our act together and start getting better quality leadership, we are our worse enemies.
    What we need is a defence minister with proper leadership qualities not some joker who goes strutting around in a Gerak Khas beret he didn’t earn.

  7. Actually, it’s kinda comforting to know that my neighbour is a little paranoid. It’s the people with very small peepees and very large egos that I am more concerned about……

    YB Zahid has been an embarrassment at Kementah and a bit of a joke since he stepped into the job. No.1 had to put him somewhere as an UMNO VP and MINDEF was a reasonably safe place to stash him. He needed his cousin to helm the mess that was KDN.

    The utterly brilliant battalion in every constituency was sheer Guinness, i.e. drunk ramblings that ought never have come to light. After that it was damage control and Kementah was effective run by remote from JPM. The Minister has succeeded in doing exactly nothing of note in his tenure, which I think is not a bad thing.

    I sincerely hope that No.1 does not send his cousin over from KDN which is right now a complete and utter mess. The minister has a track record of bungling since his time over at Youth & Sports (as it was then) that has not improved at all with time. Education…bungled. KDN…trigger happy coppers and Sultans illegally detained.

    I want Rembau for the job. Yes….Rembau. Why? Why not? If Jerlun can get a ministry…as s/o Dr.M……..

    Marhalim: It wasnt me that said that Dear Cousin will be sent to Jln Padang Tembak. It was some one very close to No 1…as for Rembau, RPK had already vouched for him which was unfortunate of course….

  8. azlan…strutting around in unearned berets is a tradition amongst ministers and has entirely to do with us as a nation of pembodeks.

  9. Let us look from this angle.

    A state’s military organization, doctrine, training and national mobilization plans gives a clue as to how the state would behave should there be a political conflict.The Batu Siputeh is one example.

    A state has many interests: economic, political, social, historical and last but not least is military interest.

    Hope our military leadership does not get distracted by the false trail of military diplomacy (FPDA, exchange visits, etc) which look good on paper but means nothing when CORE national interests are at stake.

    Why states go to war? When military deterrence cease to exist between two conflicting states, political leaders tend to be trapped by the groupthink of the utility of military force over other means to resolve a serious political conflict with the opposing state.

    Our military leadership has the responsibility to put the military deterrence equilibrium in balance with Singapore for our sake.

    In the face of budget cuts and diminishing national resources, we have no choice but to use our present strengths to the best possible outcome and effect.

  10. loreng……………….. ”equilibrium with Singapore”?? Lets start by laying 2 million mines around the outskirts of JB and create a 3 belt defence line with a depth of 80 kilometres, supported by 100 155mm howitzers and 300 81mm mortars. Oh, and we can only use Claymores as other AP mines have been banned.

    Get real. For a start, Singapore has a bigger economy and a bigger defence budget. Just as importantly, they dont throw their cash down the drain like we do. Though Singapore is not one of my favorite places to visit, we have to give credit when due. Their leaders have spine and leadership skills, unlike our defence minister who proudly struts around in a Gerak Khas beret!!

  11. azlan, thanks for the replies. I’m posting t provide data to support your explanation with some SIPRI figures (for details see:

    From 1998 to 2008, Malaysia spent slightly more than US$28.3 billion, whereas Singapore spent more than US$56.8 billion over the same period (in constant (2005) US dollars).

    This means that there is a difference/gap of US$28.5 billion. The difference/gap in spending is larger than Malaysia’s total defence spending over the same 10 year period. Such a large spending gap affects the ability to raise, train, equip and sustain the respective armed forces.

    Fyi, the gap in spending between Malaysia and Singapore moved from less than US$800 m a year in 1991 to more than US$1.3 billion a year by 1995. By 2008, Singapore spent over US$2.3 billion more per year than Malaysia. Not only is the spending gap is growing, the spending gap is also more than 67% of Malaysia’s annual defence budget in 2008 (measured in constant 2005 dollars cited above).

    However, I do have some concerns about the fidelity of SIPRI data because not all Malaysian defence acquisitions are under the defence budget. Rather, certain large weapons acquisition programmes of national importance are allocated under the national procurement budget. For example, if a Malaysian acquisition is made under a national procurement program rather than a ministry program, it doesn’t come out of that ministry’s budget.

  12. Since the 2003 SARS incident, the Singapore Government is much more worried about biological threats(like the bird flu), chemical threats(like the sarin gas attack) and terrorist bombings or attacks on land or in the maritime domain (see: Hence, Singapore has spent billions spent in increasing our capability to respond against biological and chemical threats. This by the way also benefits Malaysia in managing these threats, as it is Singapore that is spending money in designing various type of virus detection kits and so on.

    If Malaysia is viewed as a threat to Singapore, MAF officers would not be allowed on our custom engineered Fokker 50 MPAs (there would also be ‘Eyes-in-the-Sky’ counter-pirate patrols) and Malaysian F/A-18Ds would not be training in Australia with Thai and Singaporean F-16s who are vectored by our E-2C during Ex Pitch Back.

    IMO, the counter piracy patrols by Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore are a form of burden sharing. In fact, effective intelligence sharing and cooperation between both the Malaysian and the Singaporean police forces are key to preventing terrorist incidents that have been occurring in Indonesia.

    loreng’s antagonistic attitude in pushing for reduced cooperation by being more nationalistic will in the end hurt both countries. Unless of course loreng just wants to have more bilateral tension in order to justify increased defence spending in Malaysia.

  13. Like i post in another topic, there is no reason to worry about SG (sovereign nation has their sovereign right to do what is best for them, plus they never invaded anybody. they can spend on defence as much as they think its appropriate based on their planning) nor there is a worry about INA (atleast for the next 3-5 years as they are happily going through economic prosperity, which i doubt they want to jeopardise it).

    What i think malaysian should pray that our northern neighbour come out peaceful, stable and strong. If their internal political conflict turns ugly, it could lead to civil war and our northern border could get the spill over effect.

    I may be wrong, but its time malaysia reevaluate our defence spending policy. We have yet to achieve developed nation status but the request for high tech weaponry make it sounds like we already achieved the economic power such as Japan, China, Sing and even germany.

    Either we go high tech but very small and affordable force or we go for quantity but only rely on affordable mix medium or low tech weaponry. I agree that we should get the basic rights, i.e man on the boots equipment should be given priority, transport fixed wing and rotor, surveillance and data gathering.

    Marhalim: Its up to the government to decide on our strategic direction and the armed forces to implement it but as of now, we remained clueless…

  14. Strategy should govern the types of ships to be designed.

    Ship design, as dictated by strategy, should govern tactics.

    Tactics should govern details of armaments.

    Sir “Jacky” Fisher

  15. Malaysians must be wondering: Why does the SAF continue to invest in defence at the same rate? There are two main reasons/weakness of Singapore that Singpore cannot change:

    (i) Singapore lacks strategic depth and our forces cannot retreat from the city into the jungle or country side. Further, we are not a true island like NZ or the UK (where there is a sea-land gap or a natural barrier of water that any potential invader has to overcome), as we are physically connected by 2 land bridges to Malaysia (and therefore connected by land to the rest of mainland Southeast Asia). In WWII, the causeway was demolished by the British but the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) were able to cross it in a few hours and bring over their troops, tanks and supplies. So IMHO, a strong army is essential in any land battle (keeping in mind that the IJA invaded Singapore by a land route).

    (ii) Singapore’s demographics ensure that the SAF will be much smaller in future – our “2009 total fertility rate” is less than 1.3, i.e. for every 2 serving NSFs/soldiers – only 1.3 will available to replace them in future. The replacement fertility rate is 2.1. This downward demographic trend means a unrelenting decline in the number of Singapore men available to serve in the SAF, given that every citizen has to do NS (at least – 35% force reduction).

    Our investments in training, technology and logistics are but tools to enable the SAF to act decisively in accordance with our mission statement. However, Singapore must guard against operational complacency and the unfounded assumption that whoever our enemy is, they would want to meet the SAF in decisive engagements.

    The escape of Mas Selamat in February 2008, despite the deployment of thousands of police, soldiers and even UAVs to hunt for him is a symbol of such complacency. IMO all the numbers and technology in the world may not work because the enemy gets a vote on how he chooses to fight.

  16. sorry about typo in point (ii) above… it should read “every male citizen” (rather than “every citizen”)

  17. OPSSG, it’s 2 way street. If Malaysia viewed armed conflict with Singapore as a strong possibility, the defence budget would be much higher. It would be the military and not development that would top the agenda. As it is, everytime there is an economic downturn, the first to suffer is the defence budget, at the expense of other sectors which are deemed more important for the public. As you’ve mentioned previously in this forum and elsewhere, the threat to both countries are from non-state actors, be in terrorism or piracy. I am of the opinion that the best security option in the future, would be for both countries to form a strategic partnership, which would be natural given the strong historical links. This of course is unlikely to happen given the nature of ASEAN, internal politics and the discomfort this would cause in Jakarta.

  18. Dear OPSSG,

    As far I know all Malaysia’s defence procurement are done through the Ministry of Defence’s using its allocated budget.I do not recall parking our defence procurements with other Ministries including the PM’s Office.

    In fact since the introduction of the “National Service” schemes a few years ago, the annual defence expenditures shown, you should subtract the figure by RM500 million (annually) for the National Service.

    Excuse me, you got me wrong by saying I am against increased bilateral/multilateral military cooperation with Singapore.

    The main point is that I am worried by the failure of Malaysia to address the military deterrence requirements between our two states.We all know when military power shifted to one side there is a risk/an inclination on the use of military force by the stronger state to solve a particular political problem.This is not a speculation but historical fact.

    Rather than embarking on defence procurements which do not contribute to enhancing military deterrence, Malaysia should concentrate on vital projects which produce significant results.For example by acquiring high and medium ground based air defence, Malaysia can deter the Singapore leadership from using the SAF as an instrument of military power in its relationship with Malaysia, hence we keep the peace.Yes, the Armed Forces are there to keep the peace between our two states, not to create war.That is the main function of the Armed Forces, to keep the peace. If war breaks out, then the Armed Forces has failed the state through its neglect of the military deterrence requirements.

  19. Malaysia can either attempt to mantain parity with Singapore or equip itself to deal with threats it currently faces. To do both would be economicly disastrous and would be foolish given that there is no likelihood of armed conflict with Singapore. No point in acquiring gear that looks nice on Merdeka Day Parades or gear that will make other countries worried. Why get something just for its deterrent effect when several core basics are lacking – 4 short range dedicated MPA’s to patrol Malaysia’s vast waters and sea lanes.

    As OPSSG pointed out, Singapore has very valid reasons for mantaining a strong armed forces and a technological edge. Not only is it surrounded by larger neighbours, it has no depth, no water resources and its sea lanes are vulnerable. All its airfields from Tengah to Paya Lebar are withing arty and MLRS range. Sure, its neighbours currently field smaller numbers of artillery but this could easily change in the future. The only way forward for regional stability is increased cooperation and better realations. As Indobesia’s economy improves, it will want to reassert its position as the ‘head honcho’ and ‘senior’ ASEAN member.

    Marhalim: We cannot achieve as the Government had decided that the country biggest threat are internal and therefore the defence allocation is just enough for such threat with some leftovers for some of the wish-list of the armed forces etc submarines and such. Lets face it our armed forces are not structured to face external threats nor has the allocation to meet it at least in the best way possible, hence there is no qualms to fund national interest projects……

  20. I don’t get it. Why many people always make-up story about the possibility of war between Malaysia and Singapore? Personally, I have the view that those Singaporean posses little threat to our nation. They are our allied not enemy.

    Indonesia may posses threat to our nation but it’s not their govt will posses the threat, but their people and their cultural influence on our people.

    Trust me, like what Azlan said, if Malaysia viewed Singapore as the possibile threat to this country then our defense budget will be much higher, but in this case is the other way around.

    Our people in the armed forces is a very experienced people in terms of planning for war. We have gone through many conflicts and now we still deployed our forces under the UN command in several country.

    We may conflicting with several ASEAN’s nation
    and China regarding the Spratly Island disputation. Although we have built many military station and post around the disputed area, but in the event of war, we are not going to face the Indonesian or the Vietnamese, but we are facing the world super-power PR’s of China. But this will not likely to happen since our diplomatic ties with China is strong.

    The REAL THREAT to our nation is, many illegal activities such as illegal drug trafficking, human trafficking, piracy and terrorism.

    So our armed forces especially the navy is basically equipped with assets that are mean to do surveillance and have the deterrent capability in light to medium intensity conflict.

  21. call me a boy who cried wolf, but all this talk about probable SING threat, we tend to overlook that Thai is seems heading to a civil war and pose a much immideate concern to us. Why?

    1) one army top gen already switch side to the red faction and was sniped. If one could defect, what is the potential of the break up within the all mighty army of thailand?

    2) At the same time, the thai army also faces a) border dispute with cambodia which they had an intnse stand off last year and prompted the cambodian to order USD500 mil of new weapon b) they also faced the PULO in the south.

    so would not be wise if the MINDEF assured us that they are at least monitoring the sborder situation…

    I dont foresee an all out war against malaysian interest but i believe that if i am with PULO, this is the best time for any resurgent activities which, god forbids, if it happens it could overflow to our perlis,Kelantan, Trengganu and Kedah Borders. But that just me

  22. Syameer – ”Our people in the armed forces is a very experienced people in terms of planning for war. We have gone through many conflicts and now we still deployed our forces under the UN command in several country. ”

    Dont mean to sound like a pessimist
    but ”our people are not experienced in planning for war” and ”we have not gone through many conflicts”. Should a real protracted war break out, our logistics infrastructure for one, would collapse.
    Sure , we have operated under UN and even NATO command in Bosnia but we haven’t been engaged in a real war yet. Hopefully never….

    Marhalim: Personally, I also believed that our generals know what they are doing, however, I am not convinced whether they had conveyed that to the powers-that-be….

  23. Tempur has reported in it’s latest issue that SME has been manufacturing the MAPAM round for the army’s 60mm mortars[ last I checked, the army had Esperanza and Thomson Brandt 60mm mortars. I suppose it’s some consolation for RUAG having lost out on the Bighorn deal.
    Marhalim, any idea on the status of the RUAG simulator for the PT-91M, still on hold pending fund allocations? I’m still trying to find out what grenades SME manufactures for the army….

    Marhalim: No simulator deal yet, yes, money is the big issue. I will check what grenades SME manufacturers for the army…

  24. The comments in reaction to possible change of the civilian office-holder of Kementah invariably led to some interesting discussion on regional and national defence issues. All in all, it would seem that regardless of what defence posture to whatever form of future threat or challenge will be, the current imbroglio affecting Kementah, from ridiculous scandals to sheer incompetencies that has accrued over the years, in spite of certainly known examples of good military planning and foresight (notably acquisition), it appears full well that the death of the military is in the hands of its leaders, particularly civilian, rather than its soldiers or its weapons. Our defence policies in light of international situations, which has seen relative peace, makes it possible for our small force of arms and corresponding budgets, but the management process of our military appears dangerously lacking to meet unexpected threats, nor stray from corruption, either external civilian, or internal indolence. Furthermore, the diplomatic and foreign policies that we have in place, while protective, national feeling (i.e. our military will have to fight our neighbouring states) show residual or imagined antipathy that ignorance or domestic issues helped propagate.

    With Najib at the helm, it is unlikely new, energized leadership will emerge from his appointment.

    Marhalim: As I said the government, since the Dr M administration anyway, is seemingly betting that no one is envious of our nation. I am not saying that this is all bad but apparently most of our neighbours does not subscribed to that believe….

  25. Azlan,

    SME manufactures the Ruag HG85 grenades for the armed forces. As you probably know its the same grenades for the British Army

  26. SME assembles the HG85. Manufacture is rather more than what they do.


  27. Envy is unlikely to be the mere casus belli to project a military skirmish. Let us not forget the implications of border disputes between Vietnam and China that spilled over to the Spratlys, and most likely led Vietnam to concede in some points in their secret normalisation agreements. While escalation is unlikely in many possible cases, the Malaysian military should not merely be designed as a reactive force, but have the capability to act in an offensive capacity to support a possible diplomatic victory. Depending on the FPDA, or international sanction against an aggressor in skirmishes is not a good strategic plan in face of the limited nature of such likely events were it to occur between our regional actors.

    Judicious planning and good governance all around can ensure our military can stand up to this.

  28. F.N.H., even with good governance and proper leadership, there is a limit to what the MAF can do, given the size of our poulation and our economy. Hopefully however, diplomatic initiatives in parallel with MAF modernisation programmes will enable us to deal with threats we face. I believe it’s no coincidence that we mantain a strong relationship with the PRC and that the PRC has been pretty silent over our Spratley claims, unlike it’s more forceful stand against other claiments. No doubt this mifgt change in the near future. On the other hand, with regards to Indonesia, Najib has continued the policy of appeasement by going out of our way to sooth their feelings.

    Marhalim, a big thank you for enquiring about the grenade. I had no idea we used the RUAG HG85, like the British army. If I recall correctly SME got a contract in DSA 2006 to produce 150,000. I was also surprised that SME has produced 25,000 60mm MAPAM rounds, as I’ve always assumed that only a few units used the 60mm mortar and that it was only used for illumination and smoke.

  29. That limit is what I believe should be achieved, yet the current situation places us in a dangerous situation regardless of unseemly potential political victory, as opposed to military stalemates in any given engagement (i.e. Suez).

    And it is most probable that both Malaysia and PRC appear to be in cohort over the Spratlys as evidenced during the late 90s. However, our acquisition and forces disposition do mirror objectives in defence of our Spratlys claims, regardless of probable ‘agreements’ with the PRC. Furthermore, for Indonesia, it is unlikely that it will ever be in the interests of our nation to provoke nationalist feelings in their populace, nor compel their military to act on such ill-thought, knee-jerk reactionaries. Thus, whatever political chess game happening between both our nations would unlikely escalate, even with the minor incidents that happen between us.

  30. Whatever we buy or whatever strategy is adopted, at present, even giving the lack of amphibious lift and organic air cover faced by the PLAN, if the China for whatever reason decides to take our possessions in the Spratlys by force, there is nothing we can do about it. Agreed, at present whatever happens with Jakarta, it is very unlikely to escalate to the point where bullets start flying. In the future however, as it’s economy improves it is natural that Indonesia will want to reassert it’s position as the ‘head honcho’ of ASEAN.

  31. Get the right CDF and all the Service Chiefs of quality not mediocre then, the Defense minister can be anybody. Pity Zahid as he got the wrong guy.

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