Most of us do not realize the obscene expenditure on arms spending because it is such a gray area. Kua Kia Soong's book "Questioning Arms Spending in Malaysia: From Altantuya to Zikorsky" questions the purpose of this entire splurge on arms by the BN Government. It just does not make sense that our country spends so much on submarines, helicopters and other fighters when priority should be given to meeting needs in the health or education sector.
This research by Chin Jitkai, Liew Chin Tong and Nur Jazlan Mohammad argued that in recent years, Malaysia has steadily increased the overall defence budget and defence expenditures. They noted that there is a lack of transparency from MINDEF as most of the controls on defence spending are made internally. Secondly, not many NGOs pay particular attention to the issues of the defence budget and spending. Most MPs also lack expertise in defence related issues.
Singapore, our nearest neighbour with a population of 5.1 million (3.2 million) excluding foreigners, enjoys a per capita income of more than USD 37,293. Due to its size and location, Singapore's expenditure on defense is premised on the belief that security threats do not disappear. In sharp contrast, Malaysia has a population of 27 million and a per capita income of USD6897!!! (Source: Wikipedia) Our country is much bigger but has a lower GDP and a very high military expenditure which has been a bone of contention for many concerned citizens.
This link at the World Bank says that the military expenditure of Malaysia is 1.96% of the GDP.
The World Bank says that Malaysia's GDP was 222 billion USD in 2008.
Wikipedia's write up on the Malaysian Armed Forces states that the budget for military expenditure is 3.5 billion USD or 0.9% of GDP.
Yet, what are some of the scandals that have rocked our country?
1. The Missing Jet Engines
In December 2009, the Malaysian government faced a fresh corruption crisis after officials admitted that two US-made fighter jet engines had disappeared from an air force base after apparently being illicitly sold by military officers to a South American arms dealer. Read more here.
The Strategy website said:
Two of these engines power the six F-5 fighters used by the air force. Packed for shipping, the engine would be a box about eight feet long and weighing half a ton. At first, the engine was believed shipped out of the country, from a Malaysian air base, and sold into the black market. It was thought that the most likely customer would be Iran, which would probably pay a million dollars, or more, for it. Iran has been under arms embargos for decades, and is desperate to obtain spare parts. Iran has about sixty F-5 fighters, purchased in the 1970s. Iran has used the F-5 as the model for domestically designed and built aircraft. So they are definitely in the market for J85-21A engines.
But on further investigation it was found that the engine probably never left the country, but was instead taken apart, and the components sold to a South American broker, or back to the Malaysian Air Force. The government has promised to punish those responsible, but has not named names. Corruption is a common problem in the region, and stealing spare parts, or money allocated for equipment maintenance, is common.
Wikileaks revealed Putrajaya failed to inform Washington that two “US-supplied” F-5 fighter jet engines had gone missing since May 22, 2008, despite having at least “three opportunities” to come clean, according to leaked United States diplomatic cables released recently.
This NST link reveals how the jet engines went missing.
2. The Scorpene Submarines Issue - read about it in my post called Beyond the Submarines.
3. The RM6-RM7 billion patrol boats - read about it in my post called Lest We Forget.
4. The naval dockyard at Lumut had been completed in 1984 at a cost of $650 million but it had not been fully used. In 1989, the Auditor General pointed out that the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) had, because of staff shortage, sent many ships to private dockyards for servicing, Here's a sample of reports from the MSM:
“…only 21 of the 36 ships scheduled for overhauling in 1986 were serviced in that year and in 1987 only 15 out of 43 ships were overhauled. As a result, the ships were serviced by private dockyards at a cost of $10.28 million in 1985, $7.60 million in 1986 and $10.98 million in 1987.” (The Star, 16.12.89)
Some of the facilities had never been put to use, resulting in deterioration of some equipment. He also found that the navy did not comply with regulations when it made bulk purchases of spare parts for its Central Logistics Depot – spare parts and stores valued at $13.4 million for 1986 and $4 million for 1987 had been bought through local orders and quotations when they should have been bought through a contract after a public tender. (The Star, 16.12.89)
In 1991, as a result of the RM5 billion arms deal signed by our maverick Prime Minister Dr Mahathir and the Iron Maiden Margaret Thatcher, the Ministry of Defence announced the contract to purchase two corvettes from Yarrow shipbuilders, UK costing RM2.2 billion. (NST 11.11.91)
5. For further reading, kindly check out:
Defence Ministry goes on a spending spree by Dr Kua Kia Soong
Sleaze in Malaysia's Defense Industry by Dr Kua Kia Song
M'sian military - Years of living dangerously by Dr Kua Kia Soong
Other Issues of Concern
In the midst of such multi-billion dollar issues, do we have equipment that can work (even though we have a submarine that cannot dive)? Do we have up-to-date military equipment and well-trained personnel who can maintain and use these equipment to the max to monitor the security of our nation?
Do we know when our air-space has been violated or do they only know when they can SEE with their own eyes and not via radars? If so, it would be too late!
In June this year, Bernama reported that United States Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Singapore Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen have reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen bilateral defence cooperation for both countries. This is in line with the spirit and vision of the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA). Both agreed to work towards more tangible cooperation at the operational level, including through expanded training, improved command and control capabilities, and deployment opportunities. SFA opined that a strong US presence in the region has enhanced regional peace and stability. You can see Google Images of Singapore Military exercises here.
What about in our own backyard? I hope our armed forces are at peak condition at all times and ready to defend our nation.
On April 8th last year, Bernama reported Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan's comments on an allegation by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim that Israeli agents had infiltrated federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman. Subsequently, Dr Chandra Muzaffar called for a thorough probe into the allegations made by Opposition Leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, about Israeli agents infiltrating Bukit Aman.You can read RPK's take on this issue at this link and the 52 comments in that interesting post!
As a patriotic citizen, I am deeply concerned about the amount of money which is being spent in the defense sector. Whilst I acknowledge that defense is a critical issue, it is imperative that our country has competence in personnel, expertise to operate and to maintain the expensive gadgets/equipment purchased and that we have the state of the art technology to safeguard our nation's security.
I am but a semi-retired educator who has the interests of my beloved country at heart. There is so much that our nation needs and the authorities must ensure that money is wisely used and the correct equipment purchased, maintained and utilized.
Dr Kua Kia Soong recognized that while most businesses are subject to market forces, defence enjoys a great deal of 'featherbedding' – contracts are awarded without competition and the sector has its own government-blessed 'aerospace' industrial policy. Thus, the significance of this domestic military-industrial complex to the composition of the ruling class, class relations, patronage, employment and the outcome of elections cannot be underestimated.
The rakyat's hard-earned money must be wisely spent on building and developing the quality of the economic/social/educational infrastructure. There is no point in putting good money to waste if we do not have good people to lead and to manage the country's resources. Of what use is if if we have top quality weapons of war but NOT the expertly trained personnel to use/maintain them?
If such a scenario exists, our country would then be like a house of cards - ready to fall. And we certainly cannot and must not have such a scenario. As such, we have to vote wisely to put in place a government that will always put the RAKYAT FIRST ABOVE ALL ELSE! CHANGE IS IMPERATIVE!