This morning (Sept 20), I was with a group of Red Crescent Society volunteers distributing food staffs to deserving recipients residing at Pandan Perdana, Ampang low cost flats.
Heading the volunteers was Capt Azhar Lin, a retired army officer who had served with me in Cambodia in 1992/93. Capt Azhar's passion for voluntary work is quite well known to me, for during the big floods in Johor in 2007, he undertook time off from work, to join a group of friends to distribute food to the flood victims.
In Cambodia, Capt Azhar acted as the military liaison officer to the World Food Programme, to plan and distribute food parcels to Cambodian returnees located at various receptions centres administered by UNHCR, and cantoned Cambodian soldiers placed at Cantonment Camps across the Battambang province.
I gladly accepted to join the volunteers, because Capt Azhar had earlier told me that one of the food recipient was a retired disabled soldier, and it dawn upon me that I must visit this soldier, to know what are his problems, if any.
The disabled retired soldier that received us at his house was one LCpl Maarof bin Ahmad (139929) from the Military Police Corps, who was last posted at Markas Staf Stesen, Batu Cantomen, Kuala Lumpur. He now resides with his wife who is a factory worker nearby.
I began to asked him what had caused his disability, and whether he is well looked after by the Armed Forces upon his retirement. To this question, he became emotional and for a while he remained speechless.
Having recovered, he began to relate his misfortune, and his displeasure at the Armed Forces, in particular the army, for having neglected him totally, despite knowing that he is now disabled, and his wife being the sole bread winner. I wish to place on record below, the story of this soldier as told by him.
LCpl Maarof bin Ahmad (139929) completed his recruit training in 1976 at Pusat latihan Askar Wataniah, Ipoh, and was absorbed into the Military Police Corps, as a army reserve force (Askar Wataniah) soldier. His first posting was 1st Company Provost based at Imphal Camp, Kuala Lumpur. His last posting was at Markas Staf Stesen, Batu Cantomen, Kuala Lumpur.
In 1991, while on duty, he slipped and fell in the washroom. He was conscious after the fall, but felt a severe pain and numbness in his back. He was taken to the military clinic at the base and was given 3 days medical leave. Upon completion of leave, the pain persist, and he was referred to Kinrara Military Hospital where he underwent treatment for 5 months, and thereafter, he was referred to General Hospital, Kuala Lumpur (GHKL) for treatment for a further 12 months, before being finally discharged, disabled and without any hope of a total recovery. Throughout his stay in Kinrara Hospital and GHKL totaling 17 months in all, he was never paid a salary by the Armed Forces, supposedly on the grounds that he is an Askar Wataniah soldier.
Because he is now disabled, he was discharged from military service in 1992, without knowing whether he will receive any form of monetary compensation for his 16 years of active military service (1976 - 1992).
He made several inquiries at the Armed Forces Record and Pension office concerning his unpaid salary, disability pension or any other form of monetary compensation that he is entitled to receive. And each time he sought an answer from the Record and Pension office, the reply that he gets is as follows:
1. He is a Askar Wataniah soldier, and is therefore not eligible to a pension.
2. His personal record of service cannot be traced.
3. His injury is caused while he was not on active duty.
In 2007, and after a wait of almost 16 years, he was finally given his unpaid salary totaling RM21,000 or thereabout, and a monthly family maintenance allowance (not pension) of RM 99.71 sen, which will cease upon his death.
The plight of this unfortunate Askar Wataniah soldier appeared in NST, August 11,2008 and Harian Metro, August 4,2008.
From what has been written above, and if the story related by the soldier to me is correct, several questions need to be asked.
1. Why has the authorities taken almost 16 years to solve the soldiers problems?
2. Why hasn't a single officer met this soldier, to explain to him the actual problems associated with his case?
3. Why was it that the payment made, was merely delivered by post? Why can't it be personally delivered?
4. What actually happened to his service records, that was said to have been lost?
5. The soldier need to know whether his 16 years of service with the army has been officially recognised or otherwise?
One only need to meet and talk to this disabled soldier to understand the plight faced by him today. It saddens me to see that this soldier has not received any form of support from the Armed Forces since he was discharged. I could not believe that the Armed Forces is so ignorant, the existence of this poor soldier.