In defence of the Defence White Paper — Liew Chin Tong

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SEPTEMBER 16 — Today we celebrate not only the 58th Malaysia Day but also the 88th Malaysian Armed Forces’ Day.

As a loyal Malaysian citizen and former Deputy Defence Minister, my heart goes to the men and women serving our nation through the Armed Forces. Their sacrifices and contributions make Malaysia more secure and safe.

We are living in unprecedented times. After the fall of Berlin Wall in November 1989 which saw the end of global communism, and the peace agreement of Hatyai Accord a month later which ended the Communist Party of Malaya’s armed struggle, Malaysia and the rest of world had 30 years of largely peaceful period.  

But now the great power competition is back. And, Malaysia is geographically right at the heart of the possible geopolitical conflict zone: South China Sea.

Therefore, we need massive defence reforms to equip and prepare Malaysia for any eventualities.

On 2 December 2019, the then defence minister Mohamad Sabu presented the Defence White Paper (DWP) which outlined Malaysia’s strategic goals as well as the necessary reforms over the next decade.

The DWP was conceived as a “whole-of-government” document to be passed by Parliament in a bipartisan manner. Extensive consultations were made with various government agencies and ministries, as well as with the then Opposition.

The then Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob endorsed the DWP. Indeed, at his very first media event when Ismail was appointed as Defence Minister in March 2020, he assured the public and the Armed Forces that the reforms advocated by the DWP would continue.

Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein at a press conference at Wisma Pertahanan in Kuala Lumpur, September 2, 2021. — Bernama pic
Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein at a press conference at Wisma Pertahanan in Kuala Lumpur, September 2, 2021. — Bernama pic

It is therefore unfortunate that Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein chose to omit any mention of the DWP in his first four-page media statement on his policy direction upon his return to the Ministry of Defence. 

 I have been made aware that Hishammuddin is not really keen to pursue the DWP reforms. If this is true, it is shocking. I hope he can clarify this to the public. 

Hishammuddin should follow Ismail’s example by adopting the DWP as a bipartisan broad policy objective that would not be affected by changes of government or ministers. 

Upon the passing of DWP by Parliament in December 2019, the Ministry of Defence and the Malaysian Government in general would have to work on the following plans: 

 1.               Defence Investment National Plan (Pelan Pelaburan Pertahanan Negara, 3PN);

 2.               Defence Capacity Blueprint (Rangka Tindakan Kapasiti Pertahanan, RTKP);

 3.               Defence National Industry Policy (Dasar Industri Pertahanan Negara, DIPN); 

 4.               A review of 4DMAF Strategic Development Plan to streamline the Services’ capability development plans, namely Army 4nextG, Navy’s #15to5 Plan, and Air Force’s CAP55.

 On these two historic days today, I hope Hishammuddin would not disappoint Malaysians, especially members of the Armed Forces, who are waiting for the reforms to take place. 

* Liew Chin Tong is Malaysia’s former deputy defence minister.

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

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