GEORGE TOWN: A former senior army officer has urged Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu to stop the practice of politicians and celebrities wearing army uniforms and being given military ranks, saying it diminishes the respect accorded to such titles.
Brig Gen (Ret) Mohamed Arshad Raji, who heads veterans group National Patriots Association (Patriot), said it should start with Mohamad himself refusing to wear a military uniform.
Speaking to FMT, Arshad said Mohamad should also revoke past honorary ranks given to civilians, adding that the path towards attaining the ranks was not easy as servicemen had to go through a series of tests and courses over the years.
“We had to really slog all our lives to get these ranks on our uniform. And I feel it is absolute rubbish of the military to give honorary ranks to menteri besars, politicians and celebrities,” he said.
He said it was a “disgrace” to see some of these politicians “who don’t even wear their uniforms properly”.
“What kind of reflection are you giving to the armed forces?
“This has to stop. There are only two bodies that can wear uniforms – the military and the police. Even the defence minister should be discouraged from wearing a uniform,” he said.
Arshad said in the past, defence ministers had regarded the military uniform as a “fashion statement”.
He said they even wore Parachutist Badge uniforms, which should only be worn by military parachutists, while inspecting a guard of honour.
“People have died to save their country in (parachute) jumps. Have they ever done a single jump?
“Have you seen the British and French defence ministers wearing army uniforms?” he added.
Arshad said honorary ranks were usually conferred to chiefs in the territorial army, where most were civilian volunteers.
He said most of them were bestowed the rank of colonel, but never that of brigadier-general, like what is given to politicians and celebrities.
“It is not cheap to get a rank of a colonel. You have to work hard. You should at least pass basic military training,” he said.
Arshad said he himself got his brigadier-general ranking when he was 50 and nearing retirement.