Ex-general: Equipment, facilities not up to standard

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Although the government allocates the second highest budget for defence, a former senior army officer says that the equipment and facilities lying in the armed forces camps in the country are not up to the standard for the funds allocated.

Former army deputy chief Lt-Gen (Rtd) Abdul Ghafir Abdul Hamid said today the military camps were like "Third World facilities" that have not been maintained and "when the men are asked to serve overseas, they are mocked by the international forces".

Abdul Ghafir, who led Malaysian peacekeepers in Namibia, said that they took an ambulance van along and it "always broke down".

They had to used another vehicle as ambulance; while the Malaysian soldiers had to use their own towels as blankets at night, for they were not provided with blankets. Subsequently, the British forces supplied theirs to the Malaysians.

"If we look at the budget, the defence is allocated RM5 billion to RM7 billion annually. However, are our assets and facilities worth that much? If you do not believe, you can look at the book, Jane's Defence," Abdul Ghafir said.

Purchases made for benefit of few

Abdul Ghafir, who  was deputy Army commander between 2000 and 2005, said that he is non-partisan and is not attached to Pakatan Rakyat, but is merely voicing all this out of sheer concern.

"I have studied this matter and noted the ills in the military. The Defence Ministry conducts direct negotiations to purchase capital equipment (military hardware) and this is open to hidden costs, corruption and abuse of funds in military hardware purchase," he said.

"We are not wise in our purchases. The ministry does not consult much with us on our technical evaluation. The decision lies with the person holding the tender bid and this has resulted in some unwise purchases."

Furthermore, Abdul Ghafir said, there was not much transfer of technology, as practised by other countries, and this has resulted in Malaysia losing out.

Citing Pakistan as an example, the former general said there was a transfer of technology in the purchase of Scorpene submarines where the first one was built in France, the second built in Pakistan by the French and the third built in Pakistan by the Pakistanis, but under French supervision.

"The purchases are made for the benefit of a few sector of people locally, and the manufacturer. The result of such purchases is that we cannot choose the weapons that we want which are more effective for our needs."

He said purchasing items overseas would result in Malaysia's dependency on the country.

When war approaches, it would result in problems as "we may have to ask the permission of the supplying country" due to the nation's dependency, as there is no transfer of technology and Malaysia does not know how to manufacture its own arms.

"This will affect the readiness of the army to go to war and would affect our men and safety. As the defence of the country is important, it is vital that such matters be considered when considering our defence," he said.

Anwar: Will restructure LTAT

Asked whether he had complained about this to the ministry before, Abdul Ghafir said he had opted for early retirement one year earlier "and you could read between the lines."

He also said that such matters are within the knowledge of the army and indicated that there are those in the army would make their votes heard this time around, as there is some transparency in the voting system now.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim said that Pakatan Rakyat appreciates the contribution made by the armed forces and pledged to eliminate all forms of corruption for the importance of Malaysia's strategic and tactical defence.

"There are various scandals involving the purchase of arms and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is involved in various (scandals) including the Scorpene scandal.

"The various scandals in the armed forces culminating with the various exposures is really upsetting and discerning," he claimed.

He pledged that if Pakatan took over the Armed Forces Fund (LTAT), it would be restructured to include more participation from the army and would offer microcredit facilities.

He said Pakatan will ensure that the government increase its monthly contributions to 20 per cent from 15 percent at present.

Anwar added he will also introduce special dividends to the armed forces personnel who do not have pensions, and ensure that their pension level is not below the minimum wage.

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