PETALING JAYA: Vocal rights activist Kua Kia Soong has advised incoming defence minister Mohamad Sabu on what to look out for in his new job, urging him to do away with big arms purchases from the West, as well as to carry out an audit of Malaysia’s defence assets.
Kua remembered the Amanah leader, better known as Mat Sabu, during their days as detainees of the Internal Security Act.
Both men were nabbed under the draconian law during the Ops Lalang of 1987, alongside more than a hundred other activists and politicians, many of whom stayed at the Kamunting Detention Camp in Perak.
“Congratulations to our cook at Kamunting Detention Camp during Ops Lalang, Mat Sabu for being appointed our new Defence Minister,” Kua, a former DAP MP, wrote in a Facebook post.
But Kua disagreed with suggestions that the former PAS leader’s appointment suits his “Rambo” image, a reference to the Hollywood character played by Sylvester Stallone.
“The Mat Sabu I know is actually a person who has a strong persona yet gentle in many ways. I urge him not to fall for the ‘Rambo’ model but to promote a culture of peace as the defence policy of our new Malaysia,” he said.
Mat Sabu was named for the defence portfolio, one of three ministers so far named by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Following his appointment, the former PAS leader, best known for his oratory skills and ability to attract large crowds, said his first task would be to investigate an alleged military land privatisation deal made to a company owned by three individuals.
Kua said there was more to it than the deal, adding that Mat Sabu should also investigate “a litany of scandals” including the purchase of two Scorpene submarines when Najib Razak was the defence minister.
“Not only do the rakyat deserve an assurance that such scandals will never happen again, they need the defence minister to look afresh at Malaysia’s defence priorities,” he added.
Kua, a staunch critic of Mahathir, warned Mat Sabu that he would be “feted” by French and British arms contractors trying to sell “toys” such as the Rafale and Typhoon fighter jets, adding that big arms deals went back to the days when Mahathir headed the government some three decades ago.
They include the RM5 billion arms deal signed with the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1989, to buy two warships at a cost of RM2.2 billion.
“So, exactly how are decisions made in the Ministry of Defence to purchase the submarines, the corvettes, the frigates instead of more patrol boats to guard our coastlines? Members of Parliament would do well to demand an answer,” said Kua.