MALAYSIA’S defence assets are lowly ranked among Southeast Asian countries because of a mismatch in demand and supply, and politically-motivated procurements, an expert in the field of security said.
Southeast Asia regional director for the International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals, Centre for Security Studies Andrin Raj said Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu’s revelation of the status of the country’s defence assets compared with other countries in the region was reflective of a long-standing problem.
“Malaysia’s defence assets are considered lowly ranked in Southeast Asia because some assets do not provide the protection needed to safeguard the nation from domestic and international threats. Some do not fit the environment and geo-political landscape that they should be operating in.
“The decline in the performance of these sub-standard assets over the years is due to the decisions of politicians who had no clue as to what defence and security implies. The chiefs of the tri-forces of the military had little control over this.
“The fact that the procurement of some of these assets were politically-motivated does not serve the needs of the end user and it does not serve the armed forces,” Andrin said.
Mohamad had told the Dewan Rakyat on Thursday that Malaysia’s defence assets were lowly ranked in Southeast Asia. He explained how the navy and air force fared poorly in their rankings for defence assets, compared with their regional counterparts.
Mohamad said countries such as Vietnam were far ahead in the defence assets ranking, while Indonesia came out tops.
The minister admitted the situation was in stark contrast to the 1970s, when Malaysia was the top-ranked country military-wise in the region.
The Defence Ministry, however, suffered a backlash from Mohamad’s statement. This prompted Mohamad’s press secretary, Amin Iskandar, to issue a clarification.
The ministry denied that the country’s military was weaker than those of other countries in the region. It assured the people that the armed forces were prepared to defend the country’s sovereignty from any threat or invasion. It admitted, however, that there was a need to strengthen its military assets and keep abreast of technology and current needs.
Andrin said Mohamad’s comparison with the past glory of the Malaysian armed forces was understandable, considering the high standards of military management four decades ago.
“The minister rightly points out the decline in comparison to the 1970s as back then, Malaysia was very British-oriented in terms of the security of the nation. A better management of the ministry was upheld to serve the state.”
Disruptions in defence allocations have made it difficult for the ministry to carry out projects and maintenance.
An example given by Mohamad on Thursday was the request from the armed forces for RM1.8 billion for the maintenance of Sukhoi jets, and how only RM1.1 billion had been allocated.
It was revealed last month that only four out of 28 Russian-made jet fighters owned by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) were able to fly. Out of eight Sukhoi Su-30MKM and 10 MiG-29 jets in the RMAF fleet, only four Sukhoi were able to fly.
Andrin said the original equipment manufacturer of some of those RMAF aircraft had imposed cost-prohibitive means of maintenance.
He also said Malaysians did not need to be concerned about the recent revelations by Mohamad as the country’s security strategy among its allies in the region were in order, and transboundary security was guaranteed with the work being done by the armed forces, Royal Malaysian Police and other enforcement units.
“Malaysians need not be concerned as the country belongs to the five-nation defence strategy that is made up of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, which provides security when a country is attacked.”
Andrin said resolving the problems plaguing the country’s military sector required political will.
This, he said, would depend on the government’s efforts in taking the lead to impose changes that would benefit every level of the military while providing security.
“It will take political will to address these issues and a change of mindset within the armed forces is needed. The new administration will have many obstacles to overcome, so time must be given to address these issues.”