It is with my firm interest that the YB for Pandan, Rafizi Ramli had shown his interest on defence issues by bringing up the issue of Mistral class LHD. First of all, thank you for your kind interest and willingness to look into the issue. I am honoured that the YB is willing to look into the issue for the Rakyat's sake.
The good YB must have been flabbergasted when he had found out via unconfirmed report and writings by his eminent Dr. Kua Kee Siong that our govt had solicited for the purchase of the aircraft carrier from France.
But let's cut the crap and allow me to get to my points.
Malaysian Defence Spending
As a nation that is divided by the South China Sea and has maritime claims over South China Sea which are disputed by China, Philippines and Vietnam (thank God no Singapore being listed here, eh), Malaysia has been maintaining a military force that has only limited defensive capabilities.
Compared to her neighbours, Malaysia has been practicing a very cautious defence expenditure. Her defence expenditure today stands around 2% of the national GDP. Compare this to her neighbours which spend around 3% to 5% of their GDP on defence. In fact, Malaysia has one of the world's lowest expenditure for defence spending, and that is the dividend of peace that was paid by the blood of many patriots.
Defence expenditure looks big and expensive because it is expensive, especially during times of peace. However, as part of nation-building process, defence spending is a necessity. In fact, defence spending is like a insurance purchase. During time of normalcy, insurance payment seems to be wasted, but when shit hits the fan, you're thankful that you had bought the insurance. Talking about insurance, my brother is at hospital now, and I'm not even sure if he's insured.
There are two components to defence spending; the capital expenditure and operational expenditure, similar to any organizations in the business world.
Capital expenditure is expenditure on purchase of military equipment and building of new bases. In the business world, capital expenditure would usually be called as capex. Capital expenditure doesn't happen every year, and assets purchased are usually for long term usage.
Operational expenditure is expenditure made on salaries, allowances, maintenance, fuel, ammunition and other benefits-in-kind to military personnel. As our economy grow, this expenditure grows too, as any responsible employer will be providing salary increment to its staffs. Today, this is the largest component in the defence expenditure.
Therefore, what defence expenditure that we had been giving to our military all these years are mostly spent on salary and emolument. While most of our military equipment today are ageing equipment, with the helicopter fleet being badly affected, with many of our young helicopter pilots flying helicopters that first took to the sky when their fathers had just entered the military service.
The Mistral LHD Saga
First of all, the Mistral class LHD is not an aircraft carrier. Aircraft carriers are defined as large vessels that are able to carry offensive-capable high performance combat aircraft. It is a LHD, or Landing Helicopter Deck. With a known displacement of 21,300 tonnes when fully loaded, the ship would have been the largest ship in Southeast Asia, had we been serious to take hold of the ship.
For most defence watchers, we are already well aware of the fiasco surrounding the Mistral class LHD, or Landing Helicopter Deck. From the day of keel was laid, till the ships were about to be completed and to be transferred to Russia, we have had expected that the French would be forced to renegade against the deal. The accidental (or was it?) of MH17 over the skies of Ukraine was the last straw that forced France to rescind the deal.
Trapped with two newly completed Mistral class ships, they could not turn to French Navy to solve the issue; French defence white paper only calls for maximum of three LHD, and they already had three.
The French had been trying to sell the Mistral to anyone they could try to convince, us included. However, as mentioned in today's joint-press conference between DS Hishammuddin Hussein and the French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves le Drian, they had confirmed they did not even discuss the sales of Mistral to us.
Royal Malaysian Navy Requirement
Yes, it is true that RMN did look for a large ship, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you see the situation), what we are looking for is MPSS, or Multi-Purpose Support Ship. One of the ships that had been mentioned before is South Korean-made Dokdo class, which can also be configured into a LHD if required. This follows the loss of KD Inderapura to a fire back in 2009.
The loss of KD Inderapura resulted in RMN losing its capability to have a military vessel that has ro-ro (roll on - roll off) capabilities. This has in fact, had largely affected Malaysian Armed Forces capabilities to send armoured combat vehicle to Sabah during the Lahad Datu crisis and had to charter a vessel to send her Adnan ACV15 from 4th Mechanized Brigade based in Pahang to Sabah.
Since nothing has been firmed up, lets assume that Dokdo-class would not enter our service too.
Coincidentally, in a news coverage by Malaysiakini on Dr. Kua Kee Siong in 2014, he had mentioned that KD Inderapura was lost in a firefight against Somali pirates. And in the same breathe, he had mentioned that the ship was lost in a fire.
To-date, we have yet to lose a single ship to pirates, and we have yet to find a replacement to KD Inderapura.
RMN Docking Facilities
While military enthusiasts and so-called pacifists quarreled over the merits of the spending of purchasing the Mistral-class LHD, one need to take stock of RMN's available docking facilities. To-date, none of our docking facilities are able to accept the docking of a Mistral class LHD. In fact, during the last Malaysia - France joint military training exercise in this side of the world saw the Mistral class ship Tonnerre had only sailed past the busy Straits of Malacca.
Back to YB Rafizi and Dr. Kua Kee Siong
Therefore, I have to admit loss, from where did YB Rafizi and Dr. Kua Kee Siong was able to conjure the fact that we have agreed to buy the Mistral class ship.
The ships are good to have, for now. Something smaller in size would be a more preferable choice.
Flogging a Dead Horse
Before I end my tirade of YB Rafizi and Dr. Kua Kee Siong, I would like to bring to the attention of the purchase of Scorpene submarines. For the umpteenth time, the submarines were purchased new from France. What they were confused of (or maybe on purpose, maybe?) were the presence of Zwardviss class second-hand submarines which were brought into Malaysia by the then PSC Naval Dockyard Sdn. Bhd. CEO, Datuk Amin Shah, with the hope that it could be shoved down RMN for quick bucks. Further reading on how the confusion can be found here.
While, at the same time, my contacts told me the Mistral issue was being brought up so that he could link it back to the Scorpene and to further defame the Prime Minister, DS Najib Tun Razak on his alleged involvement in the murder of so-called Mongolian model-cum-translator, Altantuya Sharibuu. So-called, as she was never known to have modeled for any known modelling agencies, nor the deal was negotiated in French, but in English.
I had said it before, and I will still say it, even if you point a gun to my face. I wish that we have a strong and responsible opposition party. I wish that the opposition is strong enough to be willing to highlight issues that are factual. Not just for popularity purpose, or to bring down another person. I wish that the opposition leaders that we have, do not say, it was just a joke, when their ass are being hauled to the court. That is my wish. Don't let me die without seeing my wish being fulfilled. But at the rate we are at, that looks likely to be the case.
Therefore, I've decided to share this exquisite photo obtained from a friend.