KUALA LUMPUR: A retired brigadier-general has called for a review of the government’s decision to deploy Malaysian soldiers to Saudi Arabia, saying it could have repercussions on Malaysia’s security.
Speaking to FMT, Mohd Arshad Raji, who last served as the Royal Malaysian Army’s Chief of Staff for Field Headquarters, said he feared that Malaysia’s involvement in the Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen could provoke reactions from elements disagreeing with the campaign.
“When it comes to the involvement of our military overseas, we have to be cautious,” he said. “If it’s for humanitarian reasons and peacekeeping missions, then it’s fine. But I’m at a loss as to why we are sending people to that side of the world. I think we have enough problems in our own region.”
The campaign stretches back to March 2015 with the Saudis backing of Yemen President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against Houthi rebels, who seized the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and other parts of the country.
The Saudi-led coalition includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates with some support from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan. But a recent United Nations report said the United States was offering logistical support and intelligence activities and that officers from Britain, France and Malaysia were also working at the coalition’s headquarters in Riyadh.
Arshad said Malaysia should follow the example of Britain when it came to the deployment of troops.
He noted that any proposal to deploy British troops to other countries would be debated in parliament so that the public would be in the know.
“A soldier is someone’s son or father or brother,” he said. “The public has a right to know where we are sending our soldiers and why.”
Recently, in the wake of the UN report, Parti Amanah Negara told Putrajaya to come clean on whether Malaysia had joined the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.
The Defence Ministry is on record as having denied that Malaysian troops were involved, describing the allegations as baseless and slanderous.
The ministry said Malaysian soldiers had been sent to Saudi Arabia to prepare them for duties they might need to undertake, such as moving Malaysians out of Yemen if the need arose.
It added that the armed forces had been invited by Saudi Arabia to take part in its Northern Thunder military exercise, which was meant to foster unity among Muslim countries, not focus on military operations in Yemen.