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Troop deployment in Saudi Arabia: Hishammuddin must give better explanation


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Patriot believes his response is even more confusing.

Responding to Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong’s question about the deployment of armed forces troops in Saudi Arabia, former Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said yesterday, “Ask NSC (National Security Council), ask them what we actually did”.

He added that “the information must be declassified as it is of national importance”.

Hishammuddin’s response raised more questions than answers.

Patriot believes his response is even more confusing. Is he implying that the National Security Council is the authority to sanction the deployment of armed forces troops overseas? Is he saying that the cabinet or Parliament has no role in sanctioning troops deployment overseas? Is he saying that the Armed Forces Chiefs’ Committee (Jawatankuasa Panglima Panglima) need not be consulted and can be bypassed?

Hishammuddin should explain where it is stipulated in the National Security Council Act that it empowers the deployment of forces overseas to be part of a force engaged in a war with another country.

We believe Hishammuddin is also confused by not mentioning that the Armed Forces Chiefs’ Committee has a definite role to play in advising the government on troop deployments overseas.

Hishammuddin must also explain what he meant by saying the information (relating to the deployment) “must be declassified as it is of national importance”. Is deploying troops to fight alongside another country that is at war deemed to be of national importance? Was there some form of a defence arrangement or an agreement between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia under which Malaysia was obligated to assist Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen?

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We were told that the troops in Saudi were to be ready to extricate Malaysians in Yemen back to Malaysia. If this is true, why were the troops there for more than three years? The mission for such an operation could have been accomplished in less than a month.

Patriot maintains that the troop deployment to assist Saudi Arabia in Yemen was illegal because there was no sanction from the cabinet and Parliament. Furthermore, the overthrown Yemeni government led by Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi had already overstayed its electoral term, resigned once, and fled the country. Hadi’s legitimacy as head of government is in question. Hence, the Saudi-led attack in response to Hadi’s call for assistance against Yemeni rebel forces might be illegal too.

Under contemporary international law, all military actions against another sovereign state are unlawful. Military action can only be justified in three ways:

  • An act of self-defence
  • Collective self-defence to aid an attacked ally, following a treaty of mutual defence recognised by the UN
  • An international organisation with peacekeeping functions sanctioned by the UN Security Council

The Saudi-led coalition attack on Yemen does not satisfy the above justifications. Human rights groups have accused those perpetrating the war in Yemen of unlawful air-strikes on civilian targets, amounting to war crimes. It is also seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which Malaysia has no business to be in.

Retired Brigadier General Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji is president of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

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