In the next few months, the army will witness a change in its top leadership, following the retirement of the Chief of Army (COA), scheduled in September this year. It is not normal for the service of the COA to be extended, unlike in the case of the Chief of Defence Force (CDF). An extension of service for top civil servants (Armed Forces included), is the prerogative of the government, but in the case of the service chiefs (Army, Navy and Air Force), it is an exception rather than the rule.
Under the normal circumstances, military officers who are scheduled for compulsory retirement are expected to submit their retirement documents a year prior to their date of retirement. This is to give sufficient time for the Armed Forces Records and Pension Office and the Veteran Affairs Department to process the documents that includes, processing the quantum of pension and gratuity, processing of a civilian identity card and most importantly, any outstanding personal income tax owed to the government.
In my case, I was shocked to be told that I owed the government RM30, 000 in unpaid income tax, and after going through my previous income tax records and several appeals, it was reduced to only RM6, 000. Had the Income Tax Department disallowed my appeal, I would have been poorer by RM30, 000, and am therefore left with a paltry sum of slightly more than RM100, 000 in gratuity. That’s my worth for 33 years of military service paid by the government in the form of my gratuity in 1998; a laughable sum compared to those in the private sector; but I believe the quantum is much better today.
With the retirement of the COA, the concern among the army officers now is who will succeed the COA. Considering the norm, the Deputy COA will most likely succeed the COA, and who then will succeed the Deputy COA? This will be the million dollar question, as there are now four army three star generals available to take over the post of the Deputy COA, and they are as follows (in no order of preference and seniority):-
1. Lt Gen Dato Pahlawan Hj. Zulfifly Hj. Zainal Abidin – Vice Chancellor, National Defence University Malaysia.
2. Lt Gen Dato AllLatif Mohd Noor – Commander, Joint Force Headquarters.
3. Lt Gen Dato Raja Affendi Raja Mohd Noor – Chief of Staff, Armed Forces Headquarters.
4. Lt Gen Dato Ahmad Hasbullah Mohd Nawawi – Commander, Army Field Command.
Each one of the above officers has their strength and weaknesses, and with varied experiences. I should say that I know each one of them, and of which two have served with me in an earlier capacity. Interestingly, all are in their early 50’s (the youngest being Lt Gen Dato Ahmad Hasbullah) and with service ranging from 6 to 8 years left, prior to them attaining the compulsory retirement age of 58 years. And with the exception of Lt Gen Dato Ahmad Hasbullah, the other three officers are currently holding a tri-service appointment (an appointment that can be held by officers from any of the three services)
If one were to ask me who among the four officers above is my choice for the post of Deputy COA? My answer would be anyone of the four, merely on the basis that each one of them has the experience and the right exposure to assume the second highest position in the army.
But experience and exposure alone isn’t enough to meet the challenges and demands of a modern day army. Guts and the courage to speak out in defence of what is right for the army, is what I think is the most crucial leadership quality that must be inherent in these top echelon army officers. I am not implying here that these officers must be the ‘gang-ho’ type, with the fancy to make quick outburst at their subordinates over trivial issues, but becomes meek when confronted with the powers that be. I have heard that this seem to be the trend among some these days.
To have guts and courage, one has to have knowledge; not limited to one’s professional knowledge only. To be in the exulted position of the COA or the Deputy COA, one has to have wide ranging knowledge i.e. from the affairs of government to international affairs and politics. The test to ones knowledge is when the officer can appear in confidence in front of an international audience, and to speak over a myriad of issues, and be able to articulate the issues well. One is reminded of General Dwight D. Eisenhower of the US who excelled as a military commander in war, and later led his nation as its President for eight years from 1953 till 1961. Closer to home, we had General Suharto of Indonesia, and now General Susilo Bambang Widhoyono at the helm of government. My question now is whether we will ever see a military general taking over the helm of government in this country (through a democratic process)? Surely, this is not an impossible proposition, though not likely in the immediate future.
Now back to the choice of the Deputy COA? On a much serious note, who will it be; one that is acceptable to the soldiers as well as the government, and with the necessary leadership acumen to lead the army to greater heights, and most of all, he must be incorruptible and staunchly religious. Certainly, it has to be one of the four, and I wish to reserve my choice close to my heart.
And with the retirement of the present COA, will there be joy among the officers’ corps, or will there be tears wailing in the eyes of some? This, we will have to wait and see.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION