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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Malaysia - Defence Budget Constraint

Taking a short break from study and work.

Understand that the late Bernard Then's murder this week brought anger onto many Malaysians. The Govt's promise of a safe Sabah seems to have gone down the drain. That the Federal Govt does not care for safety of Sabahan and Sarawakian.

It is easy to say so if we do not know the effort put in to defend both states.

They don't complain much.  Even with less than desirable equipment, they still work hard to ensure our safety.

One of the most ambitious is sea-basing. Instead of having bases on the shore, the Navy had came out with this plan of creating FOB or Forward Operating Base at seas. This plan was still at planning stages when Bernard Then was kidnapped, just outside ESSZONE.
The look is deceptive, but once fully deployed, we will see a safer Sabah and Sarawak.  

Due to lack of surface naval ships (we have around 20 plus ageing ships divided into 5 operational sectors from Kedah all the way to Sabah), the sea-basing is a concept borrowed heavily from a USN paper that was found to be suitable for our own implementation.

Unlike off-shore workers who gets long leave after a stint on oil platform, these guys doesn't get to get big paycheque nor they get long leave.

Sea-basing calls for moving base in the middle of the sea to intercept enemy vessels. Due to budget constraint, the Navy had only managed to procure 2 movable ships and at least 3 other former disused oil platform. All 5 platforms were previously owned by Petronas.

The sea-base will provide for an ideal platform to launch RHIB and CB90 to intercept suspected militants. 

Right in the middle of the sea.  Once fully implemented, these will provide a protective barrier for both Sabah and Sarawak.

One of the grapevine news I have heard of is that the Navy likes what flexibility they had obtained from these platforms and are planning to procure more so they can have these placed along the whole of Sabah water and possibly into Sarawak too. These, the Navy hopes to create a line of defence that would prevent enemies from entering and leaving our shores. This in turn will free our Navy ships to be able to patrol at other locations.

Second part of the equation will be the need for our Govt to allow the Armed Forces to increase the number of military personnel. Today it is capped at 110,000 (80,000 for Army, 15,000 each for Navy and Air Force). The Army is planning to raise a new Division for East Malaysia. While the Navy had been stretched by the Sea-basing. The Navy had to call up navy reservists to fill up its rank in Sabah. And another Navy friend had to be based in Sabah for almost 3 years despite initially going there for Op Daulat only.

With a defence Budget which is only 1.4% of our GDP (as compared to Singapore at 3.3%, Indonesia at 1.0%, Thailand at 1.4%, Philippines at approximately 1.0%, China at 1.5%), at times of increasing hostility, Malaysian Govt should consider increasing the budget for defence for now, similar in the way PERISTA was done in the 70's. Do note that some of the equipment bought during PERISTA are still in operations.

Bernard Then's death had also seen some Malaysians call for vengeance. Contrary for many myopic-viewed Malaysians, many of these calls came from the Malay community. They see a fellow Malaysian being hurt, that national pride is at stake.
Maybe, maybe it is time for action in Southern Philippines. As it is too for South China Sea. But with a budget of 1.5% of our GDP, we can forget about it.

How about a rescue attempt? Why wasn't this done? The kidnappers were hiding in a foreign nation. Act of going into the country with guns blazing, or even a stealth mission is an act of war. It is not helped that many people in Philippines view Malaysia as the cause of the continuous conflict in Southern Philippines and the cause of China being daring against the Philippines in the South China.

A worst case scenario from a rescue mission could be an all-out war against the Philippines, which we can ill-afford to have right now.

The guys in this photo are more than raring to go on a rescue op. Taken by friends Komando Uganda and Tuan Afeez Chaq's just few months they were deployed to Op Daulat.
Till then, condolence to Bernard Then's family, from a fellow Sarawakian.

Note: photos of ESSCOM are courtesy of from an FB friend (Richard Wong) and if I am not wrong, is courtesy from MINDEF,

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