Defence chief also has to be a diplomat

  • Letters
  • Thursday, 25 Aug 2011

I REFER to “The army is apolitical” (The Star, Aug 19) with Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Jen Zulkifeli Mohd Zin refuting claims by four ex-soldiers that they were ordered to cast postal votes for other army officers and their wives while they were in service.

The general went on to rebuke the public by saying “people need to show their support for the army’s role in the country, and asking, “How can we be loyal to you when you are disloyal to us”?

With due respect, the CDF needs to be reminded that we as a nation were able to successfully defeat the Japanese during World War 2 when they occupied our country, repel the enemy forces during the Indonesian confrontation, and rout the communist terrorists during the Emergency largely because the rakyat supported the army by giving vital information on enemy movements.

Many joined vigilante corps like the Home Guards and fought alongside the army.

Thousands of them lost their lives in reprisal action by the enemy.

The public has always supported, and will continue to support, the army to protect our beloved homeland.

To say the public is disloyal is, perhaps, not the best choice of words.

The army is the combatant arm of the nation. Its duty is to defend the country and the way of life the nation has chosen for itself.

The army’s foremost duty is loyalty to King and country, and of obedience to the orders of the government of the day. It remains apolitical and owes no allegiance whatsoever to any political party.

It is for this reason that soldiers are required to abstain from taking part in politics, directly or indirectly.

The intention is to keep the army from conflicting currents so that it may retain the team spirit which is so vital for its success.

The restrictions, however, do not bar soldiers from holding opinions on matters that concern them as citizens, but from expressing such as are likely to jeopardise the trust the nation and the people have placed in them.

Our generals, too, are at times to be blamed when the impartiality of our army is questioned.

I remember reading in an English language tabloid “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, RMAF chief tells personnel”.

The action of the outgoing RMAF chief was most inappropriate when he said that “those who wear the uniform by right should vote for the existing government as we have all benefited from the present administration”.

The general was probably trying to score some brownie points in the hope of earning a lucrative appointment in retirement, which is usually the case.

Sadly, such statements from a very senior officer, and a service chief at that, does not augur well for the impartiality of the army.

At this level, the CDF is not only a soldier but also a diplomat; he should not display combatant body language when appearing on national TV.

This is also no longer a time when a mere denial would suffice and the problem would go away.

Perhaps the CDF needs to check the present system of postal voting in all military establishments, and suggest changes if necessary.


Letters , Opinion