The precious tax money we would save from currently bankrolling a below-par military can be better used funding more schools and hospitals, improving education and health care and setting up welfare safety nets for all, says Andrew Aeria.
Although we all know that Bolehland is run by bumbling Tak Boleh politicians, the sheer scale of their incompetence and unprofessionalism never fails to shock and awe us long-suffering tax-payers.
So it was recently when our bumbling Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi confirmed that we have a super-expensive RM1.7 billion lemon of a submarine. A news report screamed, “Our submarine can’t dive!” Many of us were left speechless. Indeed, many among us did not know whether to laugh or to cry. Yes, Malaysia’s first submarine, the supposed pride and joy or our Royal Malaysian Navy, the European-made Scorpene delivered last September, “has developed problems that make it unfit for diving”.1
And there you go, one more seminal entry for the Malaysian Book of Records. Indeed, why stop there? After all, which country has ever taken delivery of a submarine that cannot dive? So, let’s hear it for our non-submersible Scorpene making it into the 2010 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. And while we are at it, I think we should also submit another Bolehland shock and awe entry to the Guinness Book of World Records, namely the ability of two RMAF F-5E jet engines to defy all logic of rational comprehension and fly out of the country all the way to Uruguay without their accompanying aviation body parts!
Allegedly, the F-5E engines illegally took flight with the connivance of a low-ranking airman and his business pal. Amazingly, the illegal flight of the jet engines reportedly did not involve any RMAF top brass. But frankly, we long-suffering, tax-paying rakyat are not surprised by this. Indeed, it only confirmed our niggling suspicions that our military top brass are all sleeping on the job! How else to conclude otherwise? Despite all their years of expensive, tax-payer funded advanced training at elite overseas military academies like Sandhurst and Westpoint, our military top brass did not even realise that their F-5E engines had been nicked until long after they were gone!
Anyway, according to our bumbling defence minister, the inability of our Scorpene sub to dive is merely a “minor hitch” which “would not affect submarine operations”.2 Besides, there is a “warranty” on the sub and the problem “can be rectified” by its manufacturers. No doubt, Zahid was following the lead of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak who had only days earlier suggested that those missing jet engines were “not strategic assets to the country” since they are very old and “not state-of-the-art” jet engines, unlike Sukhoi or F/A-18 jet engines.
In other words, we tax-payers should not make any fuss about any military SNAFU3 or scandal since these are all “minor” issues. Presumably, we should also not make any fuss about top armed forces personnel selling national defence secrets4 to foreign embassies since that is also a “minor hitch”. After all, according to our bumbling Defence Minister, the sale of national defence secrets to foreign spies can easily be solved via ministerial “advice” to both diplomatic buyers and military top brass vendors.
Covering up SNAFUs and scandals in the military as “minor issues” only gives the impression that our Malaysian military is unprofessional and inconsequential. After all, if our government ministers and military top brass cannot even handle “minor issues” like taking delivery of a fully operational defect-free submarine, monitoring the movement of non-strategic military assets like two ageing F-5E jet engines and securing national defence secrets, then the government and the military top brass are obviously incapable of running a major undertaking like a tip-top, ship-shape, professional military for the 21st Century. What more to trust them to manage and coordinate effectively our land, sea and air forces in the event of a full-blown modern military conflict?
Consequently, it is worth our while to consider disbanding our unprofessional armed forces and turn Malaysia into a politically neutral and fully pacifist country. Such a move would save us from any potential military debacle (and the lives of thousands of our men and women in uniform) in the future. It would also save the country billions of ringgit in precious tax-payer funds.
Turning politically neutral and fully pacifist is not difficult. After all, Malaysia is part of Asean which is a “Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality’ (Zopfan). Indeed, Asean eschews military conflict. Besides, ASEAN leaders are all very friendly, buddy-buddy, lovey-dovey, regularly hugging each other and even dressing up in each other’s national dress during ASEAN summits. Thus, there is no real external threat to Malaysia. So, why waste precious tax revenues funding our military in a region that eschews military violence?
Furthermore, our total military budget for 2010 is RM11.7 billion comprising RM9.1 billion (operational expenditure) and RM2.6 billion (development expenditure). This is not small change. Given that our government ministers and military top brass cannot even put in place systems that avoid “minor issue” scandals, we the tax-paying rakyat should not indulge them their incompetence or their unprofessionalism with full military budgets. Citizen tax revenues are not free or automatic. They are given over to government in trust as part of a larger social contract between a democratically elected government and its people to secure the public interest. Furthermore, if our government ministers and military top brass have no honour to take responsibility and resign irrespective of whatever SNAFU or “minor issue” scandal that occurs during their watch and which undermines the public interest, why should we continue funding them?
The precious tax monies we would save from currently bankrolling a below-par military can be better used funding more schools and hospitals, improving education and health care and setting up welfare safety nets for all.
So, let’s have a major policy debate within the country with a view to disbanding our unprofessional military. Let’s fully embrace political neutrality and pacifism instead. Let us all live up to the values of our various God-given faiths and our Asean ideals by being the first country in Southeast Asia to turn our guns into ploughshares. Let’s fund peace initiatives instead of expensive submarines that cannot dive.
1 We have another Scorpene submarine on order, to be delivered in June this year. Hopefully, this one can dive?
2 Just like how a car which cannot drive would not affect car operations or how a passenger plane that cannot fly would not affect commercial flight operations. Excellent example of Tak-Boleh logic being applied here.
3 Check out Wikipedia for the meaning of this US army acronym.
4 We are sure that privates, corporals, NCOs and junior officers don’t have access to military secrets! Only military top brass do. As Sherlock Holmes used to say, “It’s elementary, my dear Watson!”
Andrew Aeria is an Aliran exco member.