Army to focus on 'intelligence'


BY ZULKIFLI ABD RAHMAN

Najib: Terrorists attacks has forced a rethink of security strategies.

PETALING JAYA: The armed forces is expected to give priority this year to increasing its investments in intelligence gathering and surveillance following the terror attacks on the United States in 2001 and Bali three months ago. 

The attacks had prompted Malaysia to rethink its various security strategies including increasing the role of the intelligence corps and information systems to ensure that the soldiers have a “real-time” 24-hour watch over the country’s security. 

Although the latest weapons and armaments of conventional warfare would be the main requirements of the armed forces, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had said that previously unknown acts like robbing military weapons by the Al-Ma’unah has raised new concerns over trans-border criminal activities. 

“Terrorist acts can come from anywhere, even from within the country’s borders,” he said recently. 

Defence Forces chief Jen Tan Sri Mohamed Zahidi Zainuddin had told his men that the armed forces would face new challenges, especially instigation and threats via the Internet.  

Hence, Najib said Malaysia would acquire new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment, including those dealing with Electronic Warfare (EW).  

The RM7.8bil allocated to the ministry under Budget 2003 will ensure that the modernisation process for the armed forces runs smoothly. 

The armed forces have already accelerated its training programmes to attract its personnel to remain in the armed forces. 

According to ministry officials, the purchase of new, sophisticated equipment would require well-trained officers to operate them. 

It was not just about soldiers learning to fire their weapons, but also being a step ahead in learning about new warfare, weapons and tactics. 

Their learning process doesn’t stop at just guarding the country from its enemies only, officials said. 

The officials said more military personnel would also be required to undergo professional training to boost their capabilities in ICT. 

Combat training programmes would also be increased. 

Najib has announced that graduates of the Malaysian Armed Forces Academy, with immediate effect, would be elevated to the rank of Captain instead of lieutenant. 

Other “perks” include ensuring that servicemen taking up first-degree courses would be offered full salaries. 

Previously, only those pursuing their Masters degrees or diplomas were paid a full month salary. 

In deals signed last year, the army would receive 48 units of Polish-made PT-91 main battle tanks, the first batch would arrive In 2004. 

The other deals include the RM750mil multiple launch rocket system from Brazil, British-made Jernas air defence system and Russia’s Igla man-portable rocket launchers, and also South African-made howitzer guns. 

New regiments would be formed to handle the weapons. 

The locally produced Eagle airborne reconnaissance vehicle would enable the armed forces to conduct cost-effective unmanned aerial surveillance and reconnaissance along the country's borders, especially in Sabah and Sarawak. 

With all these plans, the armed forces looks set to have a busy 2003.  

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