Finally, the news which has been kept wrapped tightly by Chief of Navy has been revealed. The plan, known as 15-to-5 RMN Transformation plan was planned and submitted to the Prime Minister as soon as he was appointed as Navy Chief.
I first heard of this plan somewhere during this year's DSA, but kept mum on it for the following reasons.
First, it was not a confirmed plan. Sharing unconfirmed information may get you the short-term popularity you crave for, but you lose your credibility and you may have also caused a well-planned plan to be dropped.
Two, I have my misgivings of getting Chinese ships. We have maritime border disputes with China. And getting Chinese made ship might not be a good thing as the PLA - Navy already has the telemetry data and capability of the ship.
Three, information like this can attract more readers to my blog. But I'm not writing to be famous. I write to share knowledge. Therefore, when someone share some information with me and asked me to keep it a secret, I keep it a secret.
While I have my misgivings, I note that a beggar doesn't have much choice, and RMN is almost a beggar. Years of mismanagement has led to the sorry state it is in today. I need not to name who is who, but suffice to say many good former Navy officers can tell you how they decided to return their commission in disgust.
It was not helped that all previous PM, MoF and MenHan (the current PM included), did not have the vision to have a robust asset replacement programme. New assets procurement were performed in a rather adhoc manner, and when there is a need.
The only visionary plan to upgrade the war fighting assets in RMN before the 15-to-5 plan was the plan by RMN to procure 27 New Generation Patrol Vessels (NGPV) back in 2001. 27 vessels were planned but only 6 were completed. The rest were canceled due to financial mismanagement that is yet to be prosecuted.
Had the mismanagement not occurred, RMN would not have required to procure 18 units of LMS based on Chinese design. But milk has been spilt.
With the procurement, while I have my misgivings, I am giving my full support to the project.
What is more important today is to get sufficient number of surface combatants to strengthen the Navy.
With each LMS budgeted at RM200 million, this alone would be too low to many of China's competitor.
The procurement also signals a strategic shift in Sino - Malaysia relationship. Far from being weakened due to the maritime dispute issue and the MH370 tragedy, this means the relationship has grown stronger.
In this case, it is not the panda diplomacy. But more likely due to Malaysia being part of TPPA.
While TPPA by US sought to exclude China, Chinese businesses have sought to escape from the barrier by opening businesses in Malaysia.
If diplomatic relationship between both countries go south, it is still a win-win situation to China. As long as the Sea Line of Communication is open for Chinese trade, China will be accommodative to the rest of ASEAN.
Already we see this in the Philippines' president rapprochement of China.
China is now considering to allow Philippines to have access to Fiery Reef and Mischief Reef.
The same can be said with the procurement of LMS. With increased ships, RMN will be able to patrol the seas better. This in turn will ensure safety in the high seas. Piracy attempt will be reduced.
With piracy reduced, China's SLOC will be better protected.
On the other hand, US is electing a new president in November. Regardless who would be elected, the decision is moot. It would be either that we get a President who loves nuclear winter or another that loves to support known subversive movement.
And this purchase is a reminder to the US that we would not hesitate to be closer to China, especially in meddling of our internal affairs.