KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 ― Former Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein today insisted he has already briefed Parliament on the issue of the deployment of Malaysian military personnel to Yemen two years ago.
Hishammuddin said he was puzzled why the matter was raised again, and that he has answered queries on the matter twice on March 2016 and March 2017.
“Perhaps the minister still possessed the mindset of an Opposition and remain unchanged as he tries to find fault to blame someone with.
“And secondly, they want to divert attention away from their own shortcomings,” he said to reporters in Parliament today.
On Monday, Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong alleged that Hishammuddin departed from standard procedures in the deployment of Malaysian troops to participate in a Saudi-led coalition that is in conflict with Yemen by neglecting to seek Cabinet approval beforehand.
The second phase of Ops Yemen had cost the nation RM14.6 million for the 12 flight missions and roughly RM1.5 million per three month rotation.
The deputy minister said there was no record of a Cabinet decision at the time to sanction the mission.
Hishammuddin previously said the military personnel did not take part in actual combat and were there primarily as logistical support of the so-called “Ops Yemen II”.
Hishammuddin further explained that the decision to deploy military personnel in Saudi Arabia was made through the National Security Council (NSC) and that he also disclosed that the personnel deployed were not on active duty with no combat training.
“I think they have forgotten the NSC entirely, ask them what we actually did but such information must declassified as it involved national interest.
“I think they don't know what the government is about..I don't think they know how to become minister even,” he said.
Hishammuddin said if the decision was not above board, then the ministry should investigate rather than throwing allegations around and for the ministry to start bucking up its performances.
“I am not afraid but the investigations must be conducted thoroughly by using the agencies under them to find the truth.
“It has already been six months, six months of trying to dig up my mistakes and the best they can do is this Yemen issue.
“They are delusional. It's time for them to lead with an objective and shave off the Opposition mindset,” he said.
Meanwhile Liew insisted that Ops Yemen II did not obtain the approval of Cabinet.
Speaking to reporters in Parliament, Liew pointed out that Cabinet approval was necessary as it involved a considerable sum of government allocations and deployment of military personnel on foreign soil.
“Our foreign policy has always been non-aligned and we only participate in international conflicts under the framework of the United Nations.
“So if the deployment contravenes our policy, then Cabinet approval is a must,” he said.
On April 6, 2015, the Malaysian military had deployed 26 officers, 16 rank-and-file troops and two C130 to Riyadh Saudi Arabia under Ops Yemen I. Its purpose was to evacuate Malaysian citizens from war-torn Yemen. This had received Cabinet approval.
However, the operation was extended from June 11, 2015 to September 4, 2018 under Ops Yemen II which saw 27 officers and 62 rank-and-file troops being deployed on three-months rotation to support the Arab Alliance's military operations by flying equipments, bullets and explosives in Saudi Arabia airspace.
According to the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions, members of the Armed Forces of a party to a conflict (other than medical personnel and chaplains) are combatants.
Malaysia does not have any military agreement with Saudi Arabia to place its troops there. It was the Pakatan Harapan government that decided to end Ops Yemen II.
Liew clarified that nobody was disputing Ops Yemen I whereby armed forces were deployed to assist in the evacuation of Malaysians in Yemen.
“Ops Yemen I was discontinued after some Malaysians chose to remain there, whereas Ops Yemen II was for providing logistic support to the Arab Alliance military,” he said.
Liew then said he would answer all of Hishammuddin's queries in Parliament.