On November 11, 2009, the retired Armed Forces Officers held its inaugural reunion dinner that was attended by no less than 700 retired officers and their spouses. The guest of honour was their Royal Highnesses the Raja of Perlis and his consort. His Highness the Raja of Perlis was himself a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, United Kingdom and upon his return in 1965, served the Recce Regiment (now known as the Armoured Regiment).
One notable invitee needs mentioning is Gen Tun Ibrahim Ismail, the only surviving army officer to have served the Second World War, the first Malayan Emergency, Malaysian-Indonesian Confrontation and the Malaysian Insurgency. I am told that upon being informed of the dinner, he despite his failing health felt no qualms about attending the function, and came bound to his wheel chair. This is the man that every member of the Armed Forces and the nation should remember for his outstanding military leadership during the darkest period of our nation’s history i.e. the May 13, 1969 racial riots. He, true to his sworn allegiance to serve King and country, withstood the temptation of taking over the reigns of government from his civilian counterpart, during that horrendous period.
Present too were the Defence Minister, Dato Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Deputy Defence Minister, Dato Dr. Latif, former Chief of Defence Forces and Service Chiefs. The presence of the Defence Minister had made the organizers richer, when it was announced that the minister had kindly contributed RM50,000 to the dinner.
In an impromptu speech delivered by HH Raja of Perlis that evening, there were two things he mentioned that caught my attention. Firstly, he would like that the proposed establishment of the Retired Armed Forces Officers Club (RAFOC) to play some meaningful role in looking after the well being of retired armed forces officers. I believe, such a role is to further augment the role played by the Veteran Affairs Department. I, however do not believe that the Ex Servicemen Association is capable of looking after the well being of retired officers, as the association have never been known to have done so in the past.
Secondly, HH Raja of Perlis expressed ‘dissatisfaction’ at the change in the design of the epaulette adorn by retired senior armed forces officers on the official ceremonial jacket. I am told that it was during his tenure as King that he gave his consent to the design of the epaulette. I was told that the change was made by the previous CDF, and it is quite obvious that HH Raja of Perlis was not consulted of the change. I do not know too if the change was properly administered for it to be recognized as the official design to be worn on the official ceremonial jacket.
The dinner was a success in many ways. It has not merely brought together friends and long lost colleagues, but more importantly, it reignites the espirit de corps that had once bounded the officers together in their service to the nation.
Most who were at the dinner have aged, but the spirit that evening was one of joy; doing away with protocol, status and position.
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