KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 — Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein cannot abdicate his responsibility to explain the allegedly unlawful deployment of troops to Yemen by referring questions to the National Security Council, said a group representing retired servicemen.
The National Patriot Association said the former defence minister must provide a more credible answer to Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong’s disclosure that the Ops Yemen II exercise was not expressly approved by the previous Cabinet.
Patriot president Brig. Gen (Rtd) Datuk Mohamad Arshad Raji stressed that Hishammuddin’s insistence that such information was classified only raised additional questions over the matter and muddied the waters about the Malaysian Armed Forces’ chain of command.
“Is he implying that the NSC is the authority to sanction the deployment of Armed Forces troops overseas? Is he saying that the Cabinet or Parliament has no role in sanctioning troops deployment overseas?
“Is he saying that the Armed Forces Chief’s Committee (Jawatankuasa Panglima Panglima) need not be consulted and can be bypassed?” Arshad said in a statement today.
Arshad also questioned how the deployment of troops to another region would be a national security issue that needed the order to be classified, saying it instead suggested there was something to obscure about Malaysia’s role in the Saudi-led offensive against Yemen.
Highlighting Hishammuddin’s insistence that Malaysians servicemen were strictly there to provide logistical support, the retired officer asked what form of ancillary services required the country’s troops to be stationed there for three years.
Instead, Arshad said the mission could have been executed in under a month if it was purely for logistics as asserted.
“The war in Yemen has been repeatedly accused by human rights groups of unlawful airstrikes on civilian targets, amounting to war crimes,” Arshad said.
“It is also seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which Malaysia has no business in.”
Yesterday, Hishammuddin dodged Liew’s allegation by insisting that he previously informed Parliament of the deployment and insisting that the matter was arranged by the NSC at the time.
He then accused Liew of not understanding how the government works and of not knowing his ministerial duties.
However, Liew maintained that the issue was about Hishammuddin’s failure to obtain Cabinet approval for the deployment, noting that this was clearly required for such exercises due to the heavy expenditure involved.
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 rescue Malaysian citizens from war-torn Yemen. This had Cabinet approval.
However, the operation was extended from June 11, 2015, to September 4, 2018, under Ops Yemen II in which 27 officers and 62 rank-and-file troops were deployed on three-month rotations to support the Arab Alliance's military operations by flying equipment, 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.