Stop giving honorary ranks to politicians, says ex-serviceman

The defence ministry said earlier this year that only those who have undergone military training can wear uniforms.

PETALING JAYA: A retired army officer has called for an end to the practice of giving honorary military ranks to politicians following news that the Selangor menteri besar and chief minister of Melaka were recently bestowed with such positions.

Amirudin Shari and Adly Zahari were given the rank of honorary brigadier-general, as patrons of their states’ Territorial Army Support Committee (Jakpaw) which aims to encourage people to join the regiment.

Menteris besar and chief ministers are appointed as patrons of these committees by the Armed Forces Council. The rank can be withdrawn once the recipient ceases to hold office, or if he commits an offence.

Lieutenant-Colonel (Rtd) Ahmad Ghazali Abu Hassan acknowledged existing provisions which allow for the award of such ranks but said they were redundant.

He told FMT that menteris besar and chief ministers could perform their duties in Jakpaw with or without honorary positions.

“Such practices destroy the principle of the separation of authority between the military and politicians,” Ahmad, a committee member of the National Patriots Association, said.

“In the past, such ranks were not linked to political positions. We had professors, businessmen and corporate figures joining as volunteers and rising through the ranks.”

He said these volunteers would go through the required training regime and gain the service experience of a volunteer officer.

He said the previous government appeared to have departed from this practice by appointing politicians for political purposes.

“I blame the generals who wanted to curry favour with politicians,” he said, adding that the Pakatan Harapan-led government seemed to be following the same path.

He called for a return to the “old way of doing things”, where ranks are given to volunteer officers who are apolitical and who enlist to serve the army’s interests.

In April, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said the ministry had stopped awarding honorary ranks and the donning of military uniforms to politicians and celebrities.

He said only those who had undergone military training could wear uniforms, to honour the service and sacrifices of soldiers and to prevent the devaluing of the ranks.