Various social and news media platforms reported that 30 Barisan Nasional MPs held a ‘secret meeting’ at the Malaysian Armed Forces officers mess at Wisma Perwira in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday night, 1 August 2021, reportedly to sign statutory declarations to retain Bersatu president Mahiaddin Yasin as the Prime Minister.
Patriot takes exception to this holding of a political meeting at the premises of the Armed Forces property. The question that needs to be asked is, why was the Armed Forces officers mess used as the venue for a political agenda?
We are asking why was the ‘secret meeting’ not held at Umno headquarters at the Putra World Trade Centre, which should have been the right venue?
“Isn’t the political party’s own premises at PWTC safe enough for the meeting?” Patriot president, retired Brigadier General Mohd Arshad Raji asked, on behalf of all concerned members.
Shahidan Kassim reportedly chaired the meeting in his capacity as the BN Backbenchers chairman. And as Defence Minister Ismail Sabri was also present, did he have an influence over the choice of the venue, namely to hold the political meeting at the Armed Forces officers mess?
The veteran members of Patriot who retired at various ranks in the Ministry of Defence will vouch that a defence minister ought to understand that the Armed Forces must not only remain apolitical at all times but also be seen to be so.
Allowing a ‘secret meeting’ among political party members in an Armed Forces complex is certainly tantamount to having dragged the Armed Forces into the prevailing political quagmire.
This incident would have established a serious precedent for future political meetings to be held at the Armed Forces officers mess.
Further, with the Armed Forces now allowing such a precedent, what is there to stop members of opposition political parties from holding their meetings at the Armed Forces officers mess? Will the Armed Forces deny legitimate opposition political parties from having their political meetings including ‘secret meetings’ at the mess?
Patriot believes it was wrong for the defence minister to have allowed a political meeting to be held at the Armed Forces officers mess.
The Armed Forces official premises must remain strictly reserved for members of the Armed Forces and civilian staff of the Ministry of Defence.
The Armed Forces officers mess is managed by a mess committee comprising serving members of the Armed Forces. All activates held at the mess must have the consent of the president of the mess committee.
Questions are now being asked whether the BN political meeting on Sunday night had the consent of the president of the mess committee. If consent was given, then the president of the mess committee had erred and certainly has incurred widespread odium among serving members of the Armed Forces.
Patriot reiterates its clear stand. Let not the Armed Forces be regarded as a political tool of the ruling government to be used at the whims and fancies of the politicians in power.
Patriot calls for the immediate cessation of such practices of corrupting the image of the Armed Forces, which must be seen to be apolitical at all times, only serving King and country. They must not be seen to be subservient to and at the beck and call of political parties and their members.
Retired Brigadier General Dato’ Mohd Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriot Association (Patriot)