PETALING JAYA: A veterans group today questioned Hishammuddin Hussein’s response to the deployment of troops in support of the Saudi-led Arab coalition offensive in Yemen, saying the former defence minister’s referral to the National Security Council (NSC) raises more questions than answers.
“Is he implying that the NSC is the authority to sanction the deployment of Armed Forces troops overseas?” the National Patriots Association (Patriot) said in a statement.
“Is he saying that the Cabinet or Parliament has no role in sanctioning troop deployments overseas? Is he saying that the Armed Forces chief’s committee need not be consulted and can be bypassed?”
The matter surfaced earlier this week when Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong revealed in Parliament that the Malaysian Armed Forces aided the Arab coalition under Ops Yemen 2 without Cabinet approval.
He said Malaysia’s involvement was limited to tactical and logistical support for Saudi Arabia.
Hishammuddin had dodged questions on whether the operation needed Cabinet approval. However, he told Liew to seek clarification from the NSC.
“He (Liew) should know what the NSC is. I think he has forgotten the NSC. He said the operation was not brought up in Cabinet, so what about NSC? Ask NSC, ask them what we actually did,” he told reporters yesterday.
He also said the information would need to be declassified as it was of national importance.
Patriot president Brig-Gen (Rtd) Mohamed Arshad Raji urged Hishammuddin to explain where it is stipulated in the NSC Act that the council is empowered to deploy forces overseas and be part of a force engaged in war with another country.
“Hishamuddin must also explain what he meant by saying the information (relating to the deployment) must be declassified as it is of national importance.
“Is deploying troops to fight alongside another country that is at war deemed to be of national importance? Was there some form of a defence arrangement or an agreement between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia wherein Malaysia was obligated to assist Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen?”
Arshad added that the people had been told the troops in Saudi Arabia were on standby to extricate Malaysians in Yemen back to Malaysia.
“If true, why were the troops there for more than three years? The mission for such an operation could have been accomplished in less than a month.”
He also maintained that the deployment of troops to assist Saudi Arabia in Yemen was illegal as it had not been authorised by the Cabinet or Parliament.
“The war in Yemen has been repeatedly accused by human rights groups of unlawful airstrikes on civilian targets, which amount to war crimes,” he said.
“It is also seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which Malaysia has no business in.”