Reply to Ridhuan Tee’s challenge for debate — Wong Ang Peng

AUGUST 30 — Ridhuan Tee Abdullah had the audacity to challenge me to a debate in a news article, ‘Kalau berani, tutup mulut saya kalau tak mahu tampar’, published on August 22 in the Malay language portal, Ismaweb.net. I do not wish to be trapped by Ridhuan Tee or Isma into an ethno-religious polemic as the history of our security forces are already well documented. However, I wish to reply to some of the points in Ridhuan’s sarcastic and irascible accusations.

About a week ago we were made aware of an article written by Ridhuan Tee (published on July 7 in the Isma-run portal), berating Patriot President General Mohd Arshad Raji. Ridhuan denigrated Arshad by telling him to retire quietly, be close to the mosque, and not curry favour and try to gain a senior position in the PH government. He also said Gen Arshad was nobody compared to Warrant Officer Kanang anak Langkau. A media statement was issued on August 21 to defend Gen Arshad’s honour, including pointing out Ridhuan’s factual errors he wrote regarding the Gunong Korbu incident, of which I was personally involved. 

Both Gen Arshad and national hero Kanang had served our King and country with honour. While Kanang has been rightfully acclaimed for his valour, Arshad has had the honour to make Malaysia proud by being appointed as the Malaysian Army Contingent Commander to serve the United Nation Peacekeeping force in Cambodia in 1992/93 with distinction, and received letters of commendation from UN and the Cambodian King. Ridhuan was comparing oranges to apples. How about comparing himself to Arshad? 

The military operates as a cohesive force. Not only are those in the combatant arms, the supporting arms, and the general services are all important; and not forgetting those in the air force and navy too. By belittling Arshad, it means Ridhuan has also belittled soldiers who served as storekeepers, cooks, clerks, drivers, doctors and military policemen. 

Ridhuan Tee has to come clean before he challenges me to a debate. All my publications in international scientific peer-reviewed journals in the field of cardiovascular disease have been the results of hard work. I do not believe in plagiarising others’ work. Ridhuan was alleged to have plagiarised the work of UTM lecturer, Airil Yasreen Mohd Yassin, for his 2010 academic exercise. That allegation was made by YB Teresa Kok and Senator Ariffin Omar and had to do with his PTK (Peperiksaan Tahap Kecekapan) promotion examiniation (MKini, 21 Nov 2013). Ridhuan needs to first redeem himself of that accusation.

Ridhuan had also cynically told me to learn the Bahasa language from him. He should first learn how to do citation properly in academic writing. As a scholar, he should also learn to avoid using rhetorical language and bias; and how to look at arguments from all angles, meaning objectively. 

Ridhuan called me an ‘ultra kiasu’. Whatever he meant by that truly puzzles me. I use the word ‘kiasu’ on my close friends too, not as a negative connotation, but as a mark of respect for their competitive spirit. 

Ridhuan used the word ‘communist’ on me. He asked, “Atau mungkin kamu masih berperangai macam komunis?”. I am now seeking legal opinion from my solicitors on his remarks and I shall pursue with legal proceedings without hesitation if necessary. 

Ridhuan also compared me to our national hero, Kanang. He said Kanang received gallantry and other national awards, and asked what award I received. 

Ridhuan might not know the Gunong Korbu incident that he referred to was a special and secret operation that was planned months ahead. The incident happened on June 1, 1979 (he wrongly stated it happened on Feb 19, 1980, quoting from an archived source). I was then a young Second Lieutenant. About a month prior to the incident, my battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel CA Tony Loone, told me he wanted me to lead a team of ten men comprising among the best trackers in 8thBattalion Ranger Regiment, for a special mission to locate an enemy camp. The then CPO Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Leng had asked for the most reliable platoon commander and Col Loone had picked me. I was to start training with my men. 

About a week before the incident date, Col Loone brought me to see CPO Yuen to receive instructions. Yuen had wanted to make sure I did not foul up the operation because the intelligence received was A1, the jargon for a double-confirmed intel. He also cautioned me on booby traps. My orders were to lead my special team, tactically moving to locate the enemy camp. I was given a former CT, a surrendered enemy personnel, to guide me to the camp. A company of men led by then Captain Othman Hamid followed behind and was tasked to launch an attack once the camp was located. 

The mission had high risk of encountering booby traps because of the enemy’s defensive measure. I was mentally prepared to lose a leg after receiving orders from CPO Yuen, and had told my company commander, Major Kartar Singh that in the event I lost a leg he must not inform my parents. I would inform them personally after recuperation. 

My team and the company led by Capt Othman were secretly inserted at night. It took another three days before we could reach the suspected locality of the camp. Two days before June 1, and before we could locate the enemy camp, we had a chance encounter with an enemy reconnaissance group and a brief firefight ensued, and artillery bombardments came to cut off enemies’ withdrawal route. Our secrecy advantage was lost. From locating the enemy camp, the mission was changed to hot pursue. 

Cutting a long story short, on June 1, 1979, around 2 pm, our whole group led by Capt Othman managed to catch up with the withdrawing enemy group without them realising. We were shivering from the soaking rain and the mountain altitude. Capt Othman called the officers together to give quick orders for an attack. 2Lt Govindaraj Kanappan’s platoon was the left cut off (a tactical term for blocking enemy’s withdrawal route) group. 2Lt Mohana Kumaran’s platoon was the right cut off group. Lt Rajiee Mahmood’s platoon was the further end cut off group. Capt Othman wanted my team to be one of the cut off groups because we were near mental and physical exhaustion from our earlier role. I told Capt Othman I wanted to be in the assault group (a more dangerous task). Capt Othman agreed to my request and he led the left assault group, while I led the right assault group. 

At 3 pm, then Coporal Michael Riman shot the first burst from his light machine gun to start the attack on the enemy’s resting place, which caught them by surprise. All of us in the assault group, in single line formation, opened fire simultaneously with our M16 rifles and charged forward. There was resistance from the enemies. The firefight continued for 45 minutes. During the firefight shrapnel from an exploding enemy grenade hit my leg. Cpl Michael sustained serious injury to his right hand from enemy fire. The insurgents withdrew, 2Lt Govidaraj’s platoon gave chase, found much blood trails, and another firefight ensued. Despite limping, I led the mopping-up operation. The enemies left behind three dead bodies and about 25 large backpacks. Govindaraj’s platoon, while on pursuit, killed another two enemies. In total we had 5 kills. Lost 2 soldiers (Rgr Ramlee and Rgr Baharuddin), and to these days I still think of them, two brave brothers-in-arms who still live in my memories. The following day Michael and I were airlifted out because of our injuries, along with the deceased and bodies of the enemies. 

This is a true account, without exaggeration, of what really happened during the Gunong Korbu incident on June 1, 1979, quite different from what Ridhuan Tee’s account of the event when he berated Gen Arshad. The whole team, officers and soldiers, from 8th Battalion Ranger Regiment, and the attached platoon from 6thBattalion Royal Malay Regiment, fought bravely. Later intelligence reports revealed many more of the enemies were either injured or killed. That explains why the enemies delayed their withdrawal and engaged us for 45 minutes, a duration never happened (to my knowledge) in any search and destroy operation during the Second Emergency (1968 to 1989). They must be trying to retrieve their casualties.

Weeks later, when Col Loone asked me about the performance of the others, I spoke highly on the bravery of Sgt Kanang, Cpl Michael, medical orderly Cpl Abang Bolhi, Cpl Ambrose ak Uning, Cpl Awang Omar Awang Tengah, L/Cpl Mathew Wan, L/Cpl Raja Gopal Supramaniam, L/Cpl Lai Chun Min, and others. The officers showed exemplary leadership and led the men to fight with fury. Ethics and honour are values military officers hold dear. Officers always think about their men and their safety. Officers do not fabricate stories to earn awards and accolades, unlike certain people in academia. The gallantry medals bestowed upon Kanang, Michael, and others made us proud. 

To Ridhuan’s question of what award I received, my answer is that I am thankful to the Almighty to be alive today and did not step on any booby trap. That alone is enough. The enemy left me a souvenir, tiny shrapnel, embedded in the tissues of my leg. My close-to-death experience in the Gunong Korbu incident, and the numerous times I missed stepping on booby traps in my years of search and destroy jungle operations taught me never to be boastful and earned me humility. The title of the news article with the words, “kalau tak mahu tampar”, was rude and aggressive. Such is the type of people who will actually freeze and urinate in their pants in the face of real enemy fire or walking through minefields. 

Ridhuan Tee should sort out himself before he replies. He is dealing with a soldier who has defeated death and now stands tall to ever willing to serve the nation. I do not wish to debate over military matters with someone like Ridhuan who has never been a soldier even for a day. Too much time and emotion has consumed me, which I could better use for more productive purpose. 

Thank you and salam, Ridhuan Tee Abdullah. 

* Capt Wong Ang Peng (Rtd) is a researcher in heart disease at the Dr Rath Research institute, the president of the Society of Natural Health Malaysia and a member of the National Patriot Association (Patriot).

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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