I had lunch with a group of senior army retirees, and the idea of this get-together is to keep in touch with one another. Interestingly, and despite most of them being nearing 60’s and some heading close to 70 in age, there is still alertness, soundness and freshness in their thoughts and ideas. Being former soldiers, what else can they be talking about, but of their pass occupation i.e. soldiering. And what is so glaringly obvious, is their strong and unquestionable affiliation towards the military service, making it to appear that the adage that ‘old soldiers never die; they just fade away’, may not necessarily be true in this instant. Definitely, fading away is out of the question for the moment for all of them
All are still actively preoccupied in some form of a vocation, either in business of some kind or acting as consultants cum local agents of a defence related business enterprise.
The conversation that ensued interests me most. Each one have some story to relate. And I would sum up by saying that all is not well for them, especially in their effort to secure a bit of business with Mindef. This is the general consensus, and I sense that their grievance is one of unfairness and lack of transparency in the award of contracts by Mindef, and more importantly, they perceive the Army’s lack of judgment and ill conceived priorities in their procurement exercise.
I had in some previous postings eluded to the problem of selective bidding that is so rampant in Mindef, that is a subject of abuse by those approving authorities and officials. There is no denying that abuse does occur. To prove a point, I have mentioned in an earlier posting that even the list of projects for equipment purchase for the Malaysian Army’s 9th Malaysia Plan, has in it a total of 9 projects listed for selective bidding. This is outrageous and has to ceased. The question being asked is ‘What is so important that the 9 projects be done through selective bidding. Seriously, are there no other bidders for the projects ?’ This question need to be answered, and be answered convincingly.
With regards to the question of unfairness and lack of transparency, there seem to be an occurrence where the award of contracts are well scripted and pre-ordained to preferred and selected individuals. There has been such occurrences in the past, and there is every likelihood of such occurrence happening in future.
What has made matters worse, is that the preferred and selected individual happened to be a foreigner; a white man to be specific, and not a local Malaysian agent. And this foreigner has the audacity to walk the corridors of Mindef at will, barging through the doors of senior officials. Isn’t this in breach of security where I thought, foreigners ought to be escorted into Mindef. Is Mindef security so blind to this, or is the foreigner given security immunity?
There has also been an occasion where a visit by a senior officer of the Army to the manufacturer overseas is being accompanied by an ‘unsolicited’ visitor, unknown to the manufacturer themselves. This so-called ‘unsolicited’ visitor is believed to be at the behest of the army senior officer, and where his bills has to be settled by the manufacturer. Isn’t this disgusting, and I am told that this ‘unsolicited’ visitor is himself a rich person who is quite capable of handling his personal bills. The question that need to be asked in this case is, ‘who has invited this ‘unsolicited’ visitor to accompany the senior army officer. And what right has he to be in the visiting entourage that is strictly on the invitation of the manufacturer, and for what damn reason?’ From the aforesaid incident, it will not be wrong for others to perceive that the senior army officer has some personal business interest with the ‘unsolicited’ visitor, thus marring the integrity of the senior army officer himself.
I am also told that the Army today obviously lack a planned, balanced and structured procurement plan. One question discussed is whether it is desirous to have two or three regiments of MLRS as oppose to retaining just one regiment. And which is of greater priority now; armoured vehicles for the cavalry regiments or the MLRS? Most agreed that the armoured vehicles has greater priority for replacement in view of their foreseeable role in UN peacekeeping duties. Besides, the armoured vehicles in the cavalry units today are getting obsolescence and are too expensive to maintain.
From what I gather, the Indian Army which is the third largest in the world has only two regiments of MLRS. And in our case I am told, the Malaysian Army has already signed the purchase of another one regiment, and is toying with the idea of purchasing a third regiment. Isn’t this absurd, and the Army’s rational of having three regiment is best answered by the professionals.
There are many more issues that I wish to discuss here, but I fear it will be long and boring to some readers. It is therefore best that I pen off now, and I hope to continue discussing other issues concerning the Army in another posting later.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION
Posted at 19.00 pm on Feb 12, 2009