RELEASE ALL 52 INDIVIDUALS IMMEDIATELY!

URGENT APPEAL: 5 December 2010

The authority’s intolerance to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression continued, when the police arrested at least 52 individuals, including a 15 year old minor, in and around the vicinity of the Masjid Negara (National Mosque) in Kuala Lumpur for participating a peaceful public assembly; to protest the proposed water tariff hike in Selangor; and to hand over a memorandum to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong regarding the water issue. They have since been brought to FRU Headquarters.

Earlier in the morning, 3 persons – Dr. Nasir Hashim (PSM Chairperson and Kota Damansara state assemblyman), S. Arutchelvan (PSM Secretary-General) and A. Sivarajan (PSM Treasurer) – were arrested even before the rally started, which was scheduled to start at 12.00 noon. They were arrested for wearing red t-shirts and on the suspicion that they might be involved in an illegal assembly. Three of them were released around 3pm before the other arrests took place.

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SUARAM condemns the brutal actions of the police, who attacked the crowd with tear gas and water cannons just moments after Selangor Menteri Besar, Khalid Ibrahim and state EXCO members left in their cars to head to the Istana Negara to hand over the memorandum. Reports also indicate that the police stepped up their violent actions even as the crowd tried to disperse, resulting in some injuries among the participants of the rally. The Inspector-General of Police, Ismail Omar, even went so far as to threaten Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim with arrest if he rejoined the rally after handing over the memorandum.

The participants of the rally were finally allowed to disperse at around 3:45pm.

SUARAM further condemns the actions of the police for their continued attacks on freedom of expression and assembly, fundamental rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

Released By,

Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar

SUARAM Coordinator

Urgent action needed:

Please write protest letters to the government and the police to express your strongest condemnation of the arrests and the ongoing denial of rights of expression and peaceful assembly. Please also demand the Malaysian government to allow Malaysian citizen to practice their freedom of expression and assembly as stated under the Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

Please call and/or send your protest letters to:

1. Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak,
Prime Minister of Malaysia,
Prime Minister’s Office,
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building ,
Federal Government Administrative Centre,
62502 Putrajaya , MALAYSIA
Tel: 603-8888 8000
Fax: 603-8888 3444
E-Mail: [email protected]

2. Inspector-General of Police
Tan Sri Musa Hassan
Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia,
50560 Bukit Aman,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: +603-2262 6015
Fax: +603-2272 5613

3. Markas Brigade Tengah Cheras,
Pasukan Gerakan Am (PGA),
43200, Cheras
Selangor
Tel: +603-9086 2222
Fax: +603-9075 6732

SAMPLE LETTER
[Letterhead of your organisation]
Inspector-General of Police
Tan Sri Ismail Omar,
Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia,
50560 Bukit Aman,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: +603 2262 6015
Fax: +603 2272 5613

Dear Sir,
Re: Release the 52 Persons Arrested
We are writing to you to express our outrage and our strongest condemnation over the arrests of 52 individuals at Masjid Negara (5 December 2010). They were arrested for participating in a peaceful public assembly; to protest the proposed water tariff hike in Selangor; and to hand over a memorandum to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong regarding the water issue. They have been brought to FRU Headquarters.
We are appalled by the police’s latest actions and view this as yet another attempt to intimidate Malaysian citizens from exercising their freedom to express their views. We condemn the brutal actions of the police, who attacked the crowd with tear gas and water cannons just moments after Selangor Menteri Besar, Khalid Ibrahim and state EXCO members left in their cars, to head to the Istana Negara to hand over the memorandum. Reports also indicate that the police stepped up their violent actions even as the crowd tried to disperse, resulting in some injuries among the participants of the rally.
We demand the unconditional and immediate release of the 52. We also demand that the Welfare Department be involved immediately ensure the minor’s well being. We further demand that the police force should stop the assault on freedom of expression and assembly.
We would like to remind you that freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
Yours sincerely,
[Name]

Shot dead by cops: Nameless no more

It has long been known that of those shot dead by police, ethnic Indians made up a disproportionate number of the fatalities. Based on the recently released statistics by the police, that is true.

rights groups on shooting deaths 041210 posingBut for the first time, details such as the age, ethnicity and nationality of almost all 279 people – citizens as well as foreign nationals – who have been killed by the police from 2000 to 2009 were today revealed by human rights groups.

Malaysiakini has earlier reported that since 2001, there had been a 17-fold surge in fatal police shootings up to 2009, when as many as 88 persons were killed by police as compared to five in 2001.

According to statistics provided by police at the sedition trial of Hindraf chief P Uthayakumar earlier this week, there were a shocking 82 cases of fatal police shootings in 2008, followed by 88 such incidences in 2009.

Revealing the statistics today were Lawyers For Liberty (LFL), Suaram and opposition political party PKR, who pointed out that of the 279 persons shot dead, 21.8 percent (61 deaths) were ethnic Indians.

Malays and Chinese, on the other hand, made up 15 percent (42) and 18.6 (52) percent respectively.

Shooting deaths according to ethnicity

2000: Malays (4); Chinese (2) Indians (0)
2001: Malays (0); Chinese (1) Indians (3)
2002: Malays (6); Chinese (12); Indians (6)
2003: Malays (2); Chinese (4); Indians (7)
2004: Malays (2); Chinese (7); Indians (1)
2005: Malays (1); Chinese (4); Indians (4)
2006: Malays (2); Chinese (0); Indians (3)
2007: Malays (3); Chinese (4); Indians (4)
2008: Malays (7); Chinese (9); Indians (11)
2009: Malays (15); Chinese (9); Indians (23)

Total: Malays (42); Chinese (52); Indians (61)

A culture of impunity

Included in the statistics issued by the police on Nov 29 were Vikines Vesuanathan shot dead in 2003 in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan; Muhamad Nir Oth (sic) killed three years later in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur; and Mohd Arifudin Mohamad who was shot dead in Kuantan, Pahang, two years ago and Rames Raman killed in 2008 in Kulim, Kedah.

They were all 19 years old. Several more were listed as having been killed at the age of 20.

In 2009, furthermore, Lobanarthan Gobi was 17 when he was killed together with 18-year old Vissvalingam Mookayah Devar in Klang.

rights group on shooting deaths 041210 n surendranAmong the more recent fatalities are the fatal shootings in April 26 of 14-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah, and of Mohd Shamil Hafiz Shafie, 16, Mohd Khairul Nizam Tuah, 20, and Mohd Hanafi Omar, 22, on Nov 13 in Shah Alam.

Pinning the blame squarely on the police and the Home Ministry for the tragic deaths of these youths, LFL member N Surendran (right) said the only reason these yet unaccounted for killings have occurred – and many more will occur – is the unwillingness of the authorities to deal with the culture of impunity and ‘trigger-happy’ elements in the police force.

Wording it more bluntly, Surendran said: “Aminulrasyid was seven years old and in primary school, when Vikines was killed in 2003. If the authorities had taken action to prevent these extrajudicial killings since then, Aminulrasyid might be alive today.

“If they don’t put a stop to these killings happening now, children who are in kindergarten this year may in just a few years down the road end up dead from being shot by police,” the lawyer added.

rights group on shooting deaths 041210 fadiah nadwa fikriSurendran was speaking to reporters after a press conference on the issue with Suaram coordinator Lucas Yap Heng Lung, PKR’s Subang MP R Sivarasa and LFL member Fadiah Nadwa Fikri (right) at the KL-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur.

Almost half killed were foreigners

Also revealed by the rights groups today was the large number of foreign nationals shot dead by police, whose cases rarely see the light of day in newspaper reports, if at all their identities are made known.

Almost half of those killed by the police in the last decade were foreign nationals – a total 121 or 43 percent.

Of these, slightly more than 40 percent (113) were Indonesians. The largest number of such fatalities took place in 2008 when 54 Indonesians (up from two in 2007) were killed by the police.

Unlike the case with the Malaysians, the majority of the Indonesians killed, or about 60 percent, were not properly identified other than by their nationality. Those unidentified are without names and age.

“In short, human beings are being shot, being bundled up, and buried somewhere without even their identities being discovered. This shows that what has taken root in the police force is lawlessness,” said Surendran.

Other nationalities who have suffered the same fate over the last 10 years, according to the statistics, are Vietnamese (5), Filipinos (1), Thai (1), and 1 African (categorised as ‘Negro’ in the police statistics).

Need to set up IPCMC now

Comparing the numbers to the incidence of police shootings in other countries, Sivarasa said the lack of an independent body in Malaysia to investigate complaints against the police and police misconduct have resulted in the rot.

In New Zealand, for example, that has a population of four million, there had been only 22 persons killed in police shootings over 70 years since 1941, said Sivarasa.

In UK, that has almost twice the population of Malaysia, there have been 48 deaths from police shootings over a period of 22 years, between 1985-2007, he added.

rights group on shooting deaths 041210 r sivarasahSivarasa (left) said the issue stems from the culture of impunity that has set into the police institution whereby a shoot-to-kill policy appears to have the consent, if not encouragement, of the upper levels of the force as well as the ruling politicians.

“This means that the police officers on the ground feel they can do whatever they want because they know they will not be held to account. Shoot, kill, and there will be no questions, no probe, so they continue.

“The inspector-general of police, the people responsible for the PDRM, will not raise these issues, and the politicians in charge – the home minister – will also not question them,” lamented the PKR leader.

NONEHe was referring to Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s (right) denial that there had been a surge in police shooting fatalities when asked about it earlier this week.

On the lack of transparency on the issue, Sivarasa noted that the statistics were released by deputy director of the Criminal Investigations Department Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani at Uthayakumar’s trial only after constant pressure from the latter’s lawyers and a directive from the court itself.

Sivarasa said he and the Pakatan Rakyat coalition will be raising the issue and will step up pressure on the government to put in place the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), that was recommended by a royal commission in 2005.

news source: malaysiakini (4 Dec 2010)

Book Launch: QUESTIONING ARMS SPENDING IN MALAYSIA, by Dr. Kua


Praises for book:

Actions to focus public attention on the costs of military spending and the need for new priorities need to be grounded in solid research, and it is in this respect that the present work is so helpful. Kua Kia Soong is a writer and activist with a long record of investigation into important issues. He has now produced another courageous work…

 

– Colin Archer, Secretary General of the International Peace Bureau

 

For too long, the military has been spared public scrutiny under the guise of ‘national security’.  Kua’s well researched book is bound to ignite public debate and outrage. It confirms that major policy shifts are needed, both in terms of transparency as well as a paradigm shift in how we think of security. A must read!

 

– Premesh Chandran, CEO Malaysiakini

About The Book:

This latest book by Dr Kua Kia Soong is a bombshell! It is about bombs and shells carried by jet fighters, helicopters, submarines and other weapons of war, all bought with Malaysian taxpayers’ money. And it is a lot of money! The 10th Malaysian Plan has allocated RM23 billion for defence & security while, in contrast, the savings from the latest withdrawal of subsidies was less than RM1 billion.

This book is the first serious inquiry into Malaysia’s defence policy and defence spending since Independence. It contains the A to Z of Malaysia’s arms industry and spending, from the unanswered questions surrounding the murder of Altantuya…to the high incidence of accidents involving the Sikorsky Nuri helicopters.

Kua has been monitoring the arms trade since the Seventies and what is significant about this book is that it brings together in one volume, the key issues and events connected with defence spending in Malaysia. From a range of published sources, he unearths the vested interests, corruption, wastage and negligence in arms procurement and alerts us to the growth of the domestic military-industrial complex. Malaysians are called upon to seriously consider the question of war and peace; the justifications for arms procurements; procedures of accountability and the choice of alternative socially useful production.

The ‘Arms for Aid Scandal’ contains revelations in the British press on the RM5 billion arms deal in 1994 and is published here for the first time, while the statutory declarations of private investigator Balasubramaniam in the Altantuya murder case can also be read in this groundbreaking book. This book is certainly his best work yet!

MAP: Venue

Official release: LATEST BOOK BY THE BEST-SELLING AUTHOR OF “MAY 13”

QUESTIONING ARMS SPENDING IN MALAYSIA

 

From Altantuya to Zikorsky

By Kua Kia Soong

Published by SUARAM, 2010


 

This latest book by Dr Kua Kia Soong is a bombshell! It is about bombs and shells carried by jet fighters, helicopters, submarines and other weapons of war, all bought with Malaysian tax payers’ money. And it is a lot of money! The 10th Malaysian Plan has allocated RM23 billion for defence & security while, in contrast, the savings from the latest withdrawal of subsidies was less than RM1 billion.

This book is the first serious inquiry into Malaysia’s defence policy and defence spending since Independence. It contains the A to Z of Malaysia’s arms industry and spending, from the unanswered questions surrounding the murder of Altantuya…to the high incidence of accidents involving the Sikorsky Nuri helicopters.

Kua has been monitoring the arms trade since the Seventies and what is significant about this book is that it brings together in one volume, the key issues and events connected with defence spending in Malaysia. From a range of published sources, he unearths the vested interests, corruption, wastage and negligence in arms procurement and alerts us to the growth of the domestic military-industrial complex. Malaysians are called upon to seriously consider the question of war and peace; the justifications for arms procurements; procedures of accountability and the choice of alternative socially useful production.

The ‘Arms for Aid Scandal’ contains revelations in the British press on the RM5 billion arms deal in 1994 and is published here for the first time, while the statutory declarations of private investigator Balasubramaniam in the Altantuya murder case can also be read in this groundbreaking book. This book is certainly his best work yet!

 

 

“Actions to focus public attention on the costs of military spending and the need for new priorities need to be grounded in solid research, and it is in this respect that the present work is so helpful. Kua Kia Soong is a writer and activist with a long record of investigation into important issues. He has now produced another courageous work…”

– Colin Archer, Secretary General of the International Peace Bureau

 

“For too long, the military has been spared public scrutiny under the guise of ‘national security’.  Kua’s well researched book is bound to ignite public debate and outrage. It confirms that major policy shifts are needed, both in terms of transparency as well as a paradigm shift in how we think of security. A must read!”

– Premesh Chandran, CEO Malaysiakini

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXCERPT

 

What RM1b Can Buy

Most of us do not realize the proportion of the country’s wealth being spent on arms, the commissions being paid for arms and in many cases, questionable purchases of such arms. Compare that with the gross shortage of schools and hospitals, public transport and other social services that so many Malaysians face and the obscenity of it all can be clearly seen.

For example, RM1 billion worth of arms is equivalent to building at least 100 hospitals or 1000 new schools or 10,000 new houses. Do you know that since Independence in 1957 – after more than 50 years – there has not been a single new Chinese or Tamil primary school built? In fact we had more Chinese and Tamil primary schools then (1,350 and 880 respectively) compared to the present (1285 and 550 schools respectively). And the population at Independence was only half what it is today!

But in one weekend alone in April 2010, the BN Government could justify spending RM10 billion on arms at the Kuala Lumpur Defence Fair. With that money, we could have built 1000 hospitals or 10,000 schools or 100,000 houses! The Tenth Malaysia Plan (2011-15) has allocated RM23 billion for defence and security.

Malaysia’s Recent Splurge on Arms

In Malaysia, although the last war against Indonesian “Confrontation” was over more than forty years ago, the BN Government has still made available ample funds for the Defence Minister to purchase state-of-the-art defence equipment all these years. “Military modernization” has become a new catch-word for the Defence Ministry in Malaysia to justify defence budgets out of all proportion to the national budget. At the same time, the military-industrial complexes of the West have convinced their own governments that one way to keep their economies buoyant is to sell more weapons abroad, especially to Second and Third World countries where the flashpoints tend to occur.

Up to now, there has been a lack of public outcry over the size of the defence budget in Malaysia. And while the alternative front, Pakatan Rakyat never fails to expose corruption and non-transparency in arms purchases, their alternative defence policy is not evident.

Thus, what is the purpose of this entire splurge on arms by the BN Government? Does it make sense in the light of the regional status quo and the state of our economic development? How is Malaysia’s defence budget being spent? Malaysia already has eight US-made F/A-18D jet fighters. Six Russian MiG-29s have been retired but another 10 aircraft will continue to be maintained by Aerospace Technology System in Malaysia for several years. Malaysia is seeking enough fighters for one to two squadrons. As well as the Russian Sukhoi Su-30s, other fighters Malaysia is considering include the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16 and Saab Gripen.

The Defence Ministry also wants to replace its 20 Sikorsky S-61 Nuri helicopters, the first of which it received in 1968. The Eurocopter EC725 was chosen in 2007 after the government had evaluated the Agusta Westland AW101, Mil Mi-17 and Sikorsky S-92. However, the deal was called off after criticism from opposition political parties.

 

A Futile and Wasteful Arms Race in ASEAN

The arms race among the Southeast Asian countries seems the most pointless after all the talk at conferences on ASEAN integration. Even so, each country’s attempt to be ahead in the race is self-defeating. For example, does Malaysia’s acquisition of 18 Su-30MKM planes change the balance of power in the immediate region? This is doubtful since Thailand operates 57 F-16A/Bs & has 6 Gripens on order while Singapore has even more jet fighters including F-16C/Ds, F5s and F-15SGs on order.

China’s increased regional power has also given its Southeast Asian neighbours such as Malaysia an excuse to step up their own defence purchases even though our leaders keep stressing they do not see China as a threat in the region. Figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show that Southeast Asia’s top five arms importers – Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma and Singapore – spent more than US$8 billion on weapons between 1992 and 1996.

In 1997, Malaysia was described as one of “East Asia’s Big Eight” countries devoting “lavish resources” to develop its military industries. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said that these countries – China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia – were enhancing their capabilities in military organization, arms purchases, and military industrialization.

Malaysia’s rivalry with Singapore springs not from ideological differences but from the latter’s forced separation from the Malaysian federation in 1965, after a crisis emanating from the racial politics of their ruling classes. From this rivalry we can see how the ensuing arms race has burdened the peoples in the two countries with billions in arms spending.

The Non-Aligned Movement was founded upon the principles of peace, neutrality and impartiality to the Superpowers. A genuine non-aligned policy can therefore go a long way toward ridding us of the need to procure expensive arms.

Malaysia’s Military-Industrial Complex

Many are not aware of the rapid growth of Malaysia’s domestic military-industrial complex. The top brass of the military guard their power and privilege and this is nourished by easy access to the defence budget and the simple justification of “national security”. Today we have seen the growth of such a complex in many countries, including Malaysia. An offshoot of the arms purchases is the race to develop domestic defence equipment industries in each of the S.E. Asian countries. In 1993, aerospace became a new strategic sub-sector of Malaysia’s manufacturing sector. This sector is both capital intensive and involves high technology.

With the burgeoning of a domestic military economy, we see class interest developing between the ruling elite and the top brass of the military. As it happens, there is now an extensive military automotive complex in the Prime Minister, Najib’s electoral constituency of Pekan with its layers of contractors, sub-contractors, servicemen and other gainfully employed.

We also find many retired generals and other officers of the armed forces in the directorships of many if not most of these local aerospace companies. This brings into focus questionable practices in the Malaysian civil and military services when we see top military and civil servants retiring into directorships of utility and arms companies.

Most military contracts come with purchase agreements involving local spin-offs. For example, Malaysia’s Airod has an agreement for aircraft maintenance with the US Lockheed Corporation and is trying to gain a foothold in the regional aircraft upgrading market, estimated to be worth $1 billion yearly. British Aerospace’ sale of 28 Hawk ground attack aircraft to Malaysia in the early 1990s came with an offset package including the manufacture of air-frame components, cannon, ammunition and tyres in Malaysia. These products would not only be fitted to the Hawks sold to the RMAF but could also be exported to other countries using the same aircraft.

Bumiputera companies have made a mark in the local aerospace industry and the Directory of Malaysian Defence Industry Companies 2000 published by the Malaysian Industries Defence Council already listed 18 aerospace companies. Thus while most businesses are subject to market forces, defence enjoys a great deal of “featherbedding” – contracts are awarded without competition and the sector has its own government blessed “aerospace” industrial policy.

The significance of this domestic military-industrial complex to the composition of the ruling class, class relations, a right-wing tendency, patronage, employment and the outcome of elections cannot be underestimated.

 

Arms for Aid Scandal, 1994

The “Arms for Trade” scandal, involving the funding of the Pergau hydroelectric dam in Malaysia, revolved around the linking of arms sales (worth RM5 billion) to British overseas aid, in the form of Aid-and-Trade Provision (ATP) funding. The linkage came to light when a senior civil servant in the British Overseas Development Administration (ODA), Sir Tim Lankester, objected to the funding of the un-economical and environmentally damaging dam in 1991 but his objections were over-ruled by the then Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd.

It was stated British government policy that there could be no such linkage. This government policy was based on the 1966 Overseas Aid Act. Allegations of corruption were levelled at the Malaysian government, specifically in the Sunday Times. It provoked a backlash by Mahathir’s government which announced a ‘Buy British Last’ policy in 1994. Soon after, the editor of the Sunday Times at the time, Andrew Neil lost his job as editor because of the political impact of the investigations of Pergau.

 

While the mainstream press in Malaysia published hardly anything on the “Arms for Aid” scandal which had erupted in Britain in 1994, the British press had a field day which subsequently led to Mahathir’s second trade boycott against Britain. These revelations in the British press on the scandal are published in this book for the first time in Malaysia.

 

The Murder of Altantuya and the Scorpene Deal

It took the brutal murder of a Mongolian national, Altantuya Shaaribuu in 2006 to shock the nation and for questions surrounding the purchase of two Scorpene submarines to be asked in this country and in France. Altantuya, a Mongolian translator was shot in the head on October 19, 2006, and then blown up with C4 explosives which are available only from Malaysia’s military.

According to testimony in the trial, Altantuya accompanied her then-lover

Abdul Razak Baginda to Paris at a time when Malaysia’s Defence Ministry was negotiating through a Kuala Lumpur-based company, Perimekar Sdn Bhd, to buy two Scorpene submarines and a used Agosta submarine produced by the French government under a French-Spanish joint venture, Armaris. Perimekar at the time was owned by a company called Ombak Laut, which was wholly owned by Abdul Razak. The contract was not competitive.

The Malaysian Ministry of Defence paid 1 billion euros (RM 4.5 billion) to Amaris for the three submarines, for which Perimekar received a payment of 114 million euros (RM510 million). The total cost of the submarines purchase after including infrastructure, maintenance, weapons, etc. has risen beyond RM7 billion. The Deputy Defence Minister Zainal Abdidin Zin told the Dewan Rakyat, Malaysia’s parliament, that the money was paid to Perimekar for “coordination and support services” although the fee amounted to a whopping 11 percent of the sales price for the submarines.

Altantuya, by her own admission in the last letter she wrote before her murder, said she had been blackmailing Abdul Razak, pressuring him for US$500,000. She did not say how she was blackmailing him, leaving open lots of questions. While two former bodyguards of the then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister were subsequently found guilty of her grisly murder, it raised suspicion of official cover up since their motives were never divulged to the public nor probed in court. Altantuya had had a relationship with Abdul Razak Baginda, a defence analyst from the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre think-tank, with ties to Najib Razak. She had worked as Abdul Razak’s translator on a deal to purchase Scorpene submarines from France. Chapter three looks at the murder of Altantuya and its link with the purchase of the Scorpene submarines.

An Integrated and Accountable Military?

Experts say that Malaysia’s air force suffers from too many aircraft types and aircraft that fail to keep up with recent purchases by its neighbours. Chapter 4 chronicles an exhaustive record of negligence, non-accountability and non-integration in the Malaysian defence sector through the years. The recent case of the missing jet engines was by no means exceptional when seen in the light of these scandals, viz. the 12 Eurocopter helicopters costing RM2.3 billion; the 27 offshore vessels ultimately to cost RM24 billion to be built by PSC-Naval Dockyard; the operational problems faced by the newly acquired Hawk fighters in 1996; the missing Skyhawks in the 1980s.

The questions Malaysians want answered are: Is the Malaysia government buying the BEST aircraft in terms of value for money? Was there a feasibility study conducted to compare prices and functionality of these copters? In the first place, why was there an issue with the proposed purchase that necessitated the PAC to conduct an investigation?

Wastage and Tragedies

Besides having to pay for the exorbitant military budget through the years, the human casualties and the loss of these very expensive aircraft is not acceptable. Apart from the tragic loss of lives of our servicemen and women, one wonders if we have been short changed by the arms suppliers or if there has been compromises on the price, quality of the equipment or even if we have adequately trained personnel to fly these ultra modern, high-tech jet fighters. And of course, the quality of management and system of accountability have been called into question often enough in the armed forces.

From 1968 to 1997, the crashes of Sikorsky Nuri helicopters had claimed 73 lives in all.

The Defence Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar who was in the United States at the time, said there was no plan to retire the Nuris; instead, the remaining Sikorsky 61A-4 Nuris would be upgraded to extend their life span. They had been in service for 22 to 30 years up until 1997.

From 1970 to 1995, there were four De Havilland Caribou aircraft crashes killing at least 17 servicemen. Then there was the crash of the Super Puma helicopter in January 1994 in which four crew members lost their lives. The Super Puma was on its way to fetch then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his delegation in Kangar when it crashed.

It was the 15th crash involving aircraft of the Royal Malaysian Air Force since 1990 – five involved the Pilatus PC-7 basic training aircraft; four were A-4PTM Skyhawk fighter bombers. The other incidents included the Alouette III helicopter, the Cessna 402 aircraft, a Nuri helicopter and Hercules C-130 transport aircraft. It was remarked that we have lost more aircraft and pilots through accidents than through war combat.

 

A Military Dominated by One Ethnic Group

Despite Najib’s “1Malaysia” policy, the Malaysian military remains dominated by one ethnic group. Although there are some ethnic Indians and Chinese in the Malaysian Armed Forces, the top brass are exclusively Malay. The Royal Malay Regiment, the premier corps in the Infantry, remains exclusively Malay.

Two years after the May 13 Incident, in 1971 non-Malays constituted about 50 per cent of army officers; sixteen out of every hundred soldiers were non-Malays; the Malay and non-Malay officers’ ratio in the RMN was 50-50 while in the Air Force, more than half the officers were non-Malays; non-Malays formed 25 per cent of the navy’s other ranks while in the air force, it was 40 per cent.

By 1981, the Malay composition in the armed forces had reached more than 75% for officers and 85% for the rank and file. However, in 1993, the number of non-Malay officers in the 90,000-strong army had dipped below 15 per cent. For the other ranks, non-Malays constituted about nine per cent. The situation was even worse in the police force. It was estimated that in 1993, Chinese comprised only five per cent of the 76,000-strong force.

In 2002, then Chief of Defence Forces, General Tan Sri Mohamed Zahidi Zainuddin revealed that non-Malays made up less than 10% of the armed forces, which had about 110,000 personnel. (36) Today, it is safe to estimate the percentage of Malays in the armed forces to be more than 90%. As in the other sectors of Malaysian society, this domination of the military and the police by one ethnic group does not serve the interest of multi-culturalism in the Malaysian nation we want to build.

Checking BN’s Defence Spending

There is no doubt that ever since the Malaysian peoples’ “political tsunami” of 8 March 2008, the Barisan Nasional Government has been forced to be more circumspect about authorizing any big defence procurements for fear of losing electoral support. For instance, the BN government was forced to stall the planned purchase of the Eurocopter EC 725 helicopters. Nevertheless, this has not stopped the same BN government from allocating a record RM23 billion, or 10% of the total development allocation under the Tenth Malaysia Plan for defence & security.

 

It is clear that the BN Government could get away with such huge defence budgets during the last few decades because of the erosion of these safeguards in our democratic system, viz. dominance of the executive over parliament; loss of public accountability; absence of Freedom of Information legislation; inadequate separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary; poor safeguards for civil rights.

However, it is important that while Pakatan Rakyat highlights the corruption involved in arms procurements by the BN, they also present their alternative defence policy to the rakyat at the next general elections.

 

Stopping the Arms Race in ASEAN

Disarmament must ultimately be inclusive of all the nations within ASEAN. The peoples in ASEAN deserve a better quality of life compared to the status quo which is committed to an irrational arms race among the ASEAN countries themselves and deprives their peoples of valuable resources for social development. The financial crisis toward the end of the 1990s gave us a vision of a region without an arms race. It was not because the political leaders had come to their senses – simply that countries in the region could no longer afford expensive military equipment. Indonesia announced in 1998 that it would cut military spending by up to US$20 billion.

An obligatory ASEAN register of conventional arms is a good first step toward increased transparency in exposing the armaments of each ASEAN country. However, the register needs to be expanded to ensure that each country provides greater detail about their arms procurements and these have to be cross-checked with other sources. Beyond imports and exports, the Register should include each country’s capabilities, inventories and production levels.

Minimising the defence budget in Malaysia and throughout ASEAN can free more valuable resources into urgently needed social services and socially useful production. Wasting money on arms prevents it from being spent on health, education, clean water or other public services. It also distorts the economy and diverts resources, such as skilled labour and R&D away from alternative economic activity.

 

Reforms and a Culture of Peace

Working towards an end to war involves putting an end to the culture of war. It involves finding ways to resolve conflicts through changing our own attitudes and behaviour. Leaders have the responsibility to initiate that fundamental change and involving everyone in that peace-building process. It involves overcoming the fears, prejudices and other contradictions that give rise to misunderstanding, violence and conflict. It involves  re-ordering our financial priorities away from wasteful and destructive arms to the social well-being of all our peoples.

Facilitating greater democracy in our society also creates a culture of peace since the more that citizens have the opportunity to participate in the running of their society and the freedom to express their aspirations and criticisms, the less likely are they to take up arms to overthrow the government.

To achieve a culture of peace would require a profound reformation but reform we must. Cooperating in shared goals and nurturing positive interdependence can help to build this culture of peace. A culture of peace should be our nation’s vision. It is a vision that is only attainable in a society that respects human dignity, social justice, democracy and human rights. It is an environment that can settle conflict and differences through dialogue and democracy and not through threats and repression.

Social change will only happen when the people are mobilised in a movement for peace. Only such a movement and consciousness can divert the billions spent on unnecessary and wasteful armaments to peaceful and socially useful production. Thus we also need the participation of an active labour movement pledged to promote socially useful, alternative production rather than armaments manufacture.

An Alternative Defence Policy

Our wholesome economic development will require the drastic slashing of the defence budget and the conversion of our military production to civilian economy or at least to purely defensive rather than offensive purposes. Such a defensive policy is eminently preferable. In the event of aggression by an outside force, having decentralised, dispersed people’s militia forces in small units armed with precision-guided, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles would be the way to wage a protracted people’s war against the aggressor. As has been proven by people’s wars in history, eg. the Vietnam war, such a defensive strategy will render useless all the tactical weapons of the aggressor, including nuclear warheads. Most importantly, such weapons of self-defence will be many times cheaper than the offensive high tech jet fighters, tanks, submarines and other vessels in the arms race we cannot hope to win anyway.

Our economic priorities need to be diverted away from military production and toward production for human needs, and public expenditure diverted to more and better social services. It is possible to retool defence-oriented establishments for alternative socially useful production without loss of jobs. As armaments production becomes more and more capital-intensive, producing socially useful goods can create more jobs than producing military goods. While civilian manufacturing industry is starved of investment, military production appropriates significant amounts of the nation’s capital, technology and skill.

In the same way that the production of energy-saving material and equipment (eg.insulation) and demand management is preferable to energy-creating expenditure (eg. dams and power stations), socially useful production to replace military production would require a mind set change and re-ordering of priorities in our society. This is the essence of sustainable living and the promotion of peace in our country, our region and throughout the world…

Dr Kua Kia Soong is director of Malaysia’s human rights organization, SUARAM. He was Principal of the community-funded New Era College (2000-08); Opposition Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya (1990-95); Director of Huazi Research Centre (1985-90); Political Detainee under the ISA (1987-89); Academic Director to the Malaysian Chinese schools (1983-85) and Lecturer in Sociology at the National University of Singapore (1978-79). He studied for his BA Econ (1975), MA Econ (1976) and PhD in Sociology (1981) at Manchester University, UK.

Freedom of Expression is for All!

SUARAM regrets the disruption made by the Pro-ISA protesters at the Anti ISA Forum in Penang yesterday. The forum was organised by Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) Penang in conjunction with 50 years of Internal Security Act (ISA) in Malaysia since 1960.

SUARAM do respect freedom of expression and assembly by the Pro ISA protesters but SUARAM is also expecting a mutual understanding and respects from the Pro ISA protesters on the views and expression of the others. SUARAM believes that everyone in a democratic society should be given an opportunity to discuss any issues in a civil and proper manner and in respect.

We also learnt that, the forum moderator Rozaimin Elias was slapped by one of the protestors when he tried to prevent them from advancing onto the stage. The assault on Rozaimin is unnecessary and it could be avoided if the police took control on the situation. SUARAM condemn the violent act and regrets the non action on part of the police to control the situation.

SUARAM also would like to register its protest on a statement made by the Penang State police Chief Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakob who has said the organisers did not apply for a police permit to hold the event.

We view the statement from the State Chief is irresponsible as the police is duty bound to protect the rights of all people in any circumstances. Datuk Wira’s statements exposes that his comments are merely to cover up the weaknesses of the police when they failed to control the situation. We wants to remind the Police Chief that, under the Article 10 of Federal Constitution everyone has rights express their views. We urged the police to play a neutral role rather than being biased towards the Pro ISA protesters.

SUARAM is of the view that the ISA is an Act which allows detention without trial as a serious violation of fundamental human rights and the draconian act must be repealed.

Released by,
Nalini.E
SUARAM Coordinator