We’re trained to kill, not for cheap labour, veterans tell tycoon

Mohamed Arshad Raji (left) says tycoon Koon Yew Yin is ignorant of the role of the armed forces.

PETALING JAYA: Veterans group National Patriots Association (Patriot) has hit out at recent suggestions that the manpower of the Malaysian armed forces be diverted to help with plantation works and community projects, saying such calls show an ignorance of the role of the armed forces.

“They are certainly not cheap labour. They are trained professional killers our nation cannot do without,” said Patriot president Mohamed Arshad Raji.

The retired brigadier-general was reacting to prominent Perak tycoon Koon Yew Yin, who in a recent blog post on improving the civil service, claimed that armed forces personnel “are doing nothing except eating and sleeping”.

“In fact, almost all of them have never fired a shot except at target practice. Some of them should replace the foreign workers in the Felda plantations,” the vocal businessman wrote on his website this week.

The remarks were criticised by Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong, who urged Koon to learn more about the sacrifices of the armed forces.

Patriot recalled a similar suggestion by former Sabah chief minister Harris Salleh, who proposed that soldiers be made to carry out government projects in rural communities.

“Suggestions from both men are ridiculous and show their sheer ignorance of the role of the armed forces,” Arshad said.

He said Malaysian military personnel are still occupied during peacetime, including guarding the borders and being despatched abroad for risky peace-keeping missions.

“Being in peacetime does not mean the military personnel are doing nothing, as what Koon opined,” said Arshad. “Their main preoccupation is to train for war. This, the civilians and politicians cannot comprehend as they do not see the possibility of any war.”

Arshad said the strength of the Malaysian armed forces lies in its discipline and the high morale of its military personnel.

“If our military is disorganised, poorly trained, ill disciplined and low in morale, our leaders lose esteem and gain no respect, an element very necessary in international relations,” he added.

Arshad described the military personnel as “professional killers” who are “highly skilled in their respective roles”.

“They do jobs civilians cannot do. They are trained to go through and be able to endure hardship. All of them understand that the moment they sign to be enlisted, they have to be prepared to die, even be sacrificed for the success of any vital mission.”