Armed forces like an ‘insurance policy’, says deputy defence minister

Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong says the armed forces have helped to maintain peace over the years.

SUBANG JAYA: Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong today said there is a need for Malaysians to understand the role of the armed forces, following a controversial suggestion that its manpower be diverted to help with plantation work and community projects.

“The role of the army is, (as) a last resort, to prepare for war to maintain peace. That’s their primary role,” Liew told reporters on the sidelines of a forum at Sunway University here.

“And it is like an insurance policy, (just like when) you buy insurance to secure your home.

“Because we have this long peace of 30 years since 1989, we feel we don’t need (to have the armed forces). But actually, they have maintained peace (since 1989),” he said, referring to the peace agreement signed by the government and the Communist Party of Malaya.

This follows a claim by Perak tycoon Koon Yew Yin who, in a recent blog post on improving the civil service, said 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 businessman wrote on his website last week.

Koon has since retracted his statement and apologised.

Liew said the government is committed to introducing a defence White Paper to outline the direction and strategies that the armed forces will embark on, which will help to quell such rumours about the army.

“The defence White Paper will serve as a platform, so we finally have a consensus and agreement (on the role and responsibilities of agencies tasked with maintaining national security),” he said.

He said the White Paper would also outline funding and personnel needed for the armed forces to carry out their duties.

On whether the government is looking at ensuring a more diverse composition of the Malay-majority armed forces, Liew said what is more important now is ensuring that all armed forces personnel are well-treated and have a clear direction first.

“Once you run a very good institution, then you talk about other issues. Eventually, when the institutions are well run, naturally, you don’t have to worry about that (race issue).”

Several proposals in the defence White Paper have been consented to by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and are expected to be tabled in Parliament in October.

Earlier, Liew spoke on “Beyond 2020: Fresh Views, New Visions” at the forum hosted by the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia and think tank The Centre.

Also present were PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar and Umno’s Rembau MP and The Centre co-founder Khairy Jamaluddin.