Monday, March 15, 2010


Last Saturday evening, I attended a wedding reception of the daughter of a colleague of mine, and I am glad to have met so many of my former colleagues; some still serving, but most are retirees. As usual, when retirees get to sit together, the conversation will inadvertently revolve around jokes and ‘flashbacks’ of their past experiences.

Someone pulled out a joke about the former GOC 4 Division, the late Maj Gen Selvarajah who was known for his fondness for ‘biskut goreng’ and travelling in an open army land rover during his tour of the operational areas. A must in his entourage will include the Staff Officer Grade 1 (Intelligence), who as usual would arm himself with a pistol, and a Colt M 16 rifle. Why has he to have two weapons instead of just one, is something I just could not understand.

I was then the Chief of Staff of HQ 4 Brigade (a formation under the command of HQ 4 Division) based in Temerloh, Pahang. There was an occasion when I was tasked by my Brigade Commander to receive Maj Gen Selvarajah at the Temerloh Rest House, who was schedule to visit our HQ the following day. I was reminded by my Brigade Commander not to forget to take along some ‘biskut goreng’ as an anti-dote to enlivened Maj Gen Selvarajah, in case his mood wasn’t one that was too friendly. On receiving him upon his arrival at the Rest House, I quickly handed him the ‘biskut goreng’, and sure enough, I could see the glitter in his eyes, and that sure saved my day.

In the early 80’s, Pahang then was still at the heights of the communist insurgency; the bastion of the 5th Assault Unit led by the infamous Chong Chor. HQ 4 Brigade being a ‘front-line Brigade’ was forever involved in operations. If it were a major operation involving more than two infantry battalions, the Brigade would deploy its Tactical HQ, to be close to where the ‘action’ was likely to be.

Not enough with just the Brigade Tactical HQ being deployed, the excitement of the on-going operations would sometimes entice the Division HQ to also deploy its Tactical HQ, and of all places, in the same locality of the Brigade Tactical HQ. This was where problems would arise, especially with regards to the exercise of command over the operations. The Division Tactical HQ having to squat in the Brigade Tactical HQ, and having to share the same operation room of the latter, would appear that the Division Tactical HQ was in command of the operation, rather than the Brigade HQ.

As the Brigade Chief of Staff, I sometime had to role because the Division seemed to dictate the deployment of units and sub units, which under the normal circumstances would be the role of the units themselves, working within the operational frame work provided to them in the Operational Orders issued by the Brigade HQ. Sure, I wasn’t appreciative of the actions of Division HQ, and it was for this reason that I would sometimes leave the Operations Room, for the comfort of my tent.

Several years later, I was again posted to HQ 4 Brigade; this time as it’s Commander. Jungle operations have all but gone, and the emphasis then was training. The Brigade was re-designated to a Mechanised Infantry Brigade, but throughout the time I was in command of the Brigade, there was not a single Mechanise Infantry vehicle for the HQ. I therefore had little to speak off my experience having to command a Mechanised Infantry Brigade. I would rather be called a Commander of a normal Infantry Brigade.

And speaking of retirees, I am told that there are some senior army officers in the rank of Brigadiers who have retired some two years ago have yet to be formally ‘dined out’. This is most unbecoming of the army officers’ corps, as the long held traditions have it that all officers (regardless of rank) have to be ‘dined out’ either upon their posting to another unit/formation or more so, if they are to leave the service. But one cannot be forgiven if officers of the rank of Brigadiers and above are totally ignored, and were not accorded a ‘dinning out’ by Army HQ. This is disgusting to say the least.

I clearly remembered in 2000, during the time when Tan Sri Gen Md Hashim Hussein was the Chief of Army, he had assembled no less than eight retired officers of the rank of Brigadier and above, to be formally dined out. I was one of those to be invited, though having retired two years earlier. My hope is that the current army regime will take note of this, and to accord those retired senior officers a formal ‘dining out’, in appreciation for their service to the army, and an occasion they so deserve.



Capt's Longhouse said...


,,,Tanah Malaysia ini tanah keramat. Bukan sedikit darah yang tumpah untuk membina bangsa merdeka dan berdaulat. Baru 52 tahun mencapai kemerdekaan, ada orang kita sudah lalai dengan sejarah...adooooiii haiii !!
,,,but i have always let my frustrations spur me towards greater achievements..such sweet revenge !! going through ordeals it will toughen oneself, but some of our younger generation has/have got it too easy, if i may say it.


taming said...


What is it when even the basics are not done! It just reflects the quality and attitude of the Army top leadership. It's a shame.

I know Jen Md Hashim Hussein very well and inspite of what others say about this ex-army senior, at least this guy never forgot the basics.

What has Jen Ismail Jamaluddin got to say? Or, is he working hard on his service extension plan??

Fathol said...

Stories about the past are aplenty and recalling them requires someone with a knack for story telling.

I too have several and the one that frequently surfaces, whenever we from 2 Rangers meet, is about the great Syed Alsagof.

We were stationed at Lok Kawi Camp, Sabah then. Our CO was another great guy - Col Harchand Singh.

Alsagof, GOC 1 Div, was slated to visit our battalion. I was tasked to take care of his food and drinks - a scrawny kambing jantan and a bunch of young coconuts (the Filipino variety).

But on the day of his arrival, the goat went missing. The poor animal must have got wind of its fate and had absconded during the night.

When Alsagof arrived the CO, wanting to curry favour, told him that his favourite air kelapa muda was ready. He offered him a tall glass filled with the drink. Alsagof brushed it aside and asked for Ribena instead. I had to dash to the NAAFI shop, a mile away, to buy a bottle.

Back at the mess, I saw an irate Alsagof berating Harchand for not aligning his photograph on the mess wall. "Dai Bai, gambar saya sengit nanti satu mess saya kasi sengit, tau!" he remarked.

I have plenty of other stories about Alsagof but this is the best since that was my first encounter with the man.

About dining out. I feel what matters is the quality of people who attend and organise one's dining out. It's the sincerity behind such display of loyalty and gratitude that is paramount.

The one "dining-out"(if I may use the term)I treasure most was a simple "daun pisang" lunch offered by my officers when I retired from Service.

It surpassed all other dinning-outs, formal and informal, for its simplicity, quality, ambiance and camaraderie.

ArshadRaji said...

Dear Fathol,

We have lots of story to talk about the great Gen Syed Ahmad Alsagoff when he was the 4 Bde Commander based in Singapore then. 6 R. Malay Regt was based in Sembawang Camp then, and I remembered too that he presented a coloured photo of himself to be hung in the mess. But what my CO, the late Lt Col Mokti instructed us to do was to hung the photo only when he visits the unit. Otherwise, the photo is to be kept in the offrs mess store room. Of course the 'kambing' issue is true, and we also had a similar experience.

WIRA said...

I thought this story is about Army traditions gone awry, not about the idiosyncracies of the late Gen Al-Sagoff. May his soul rest in peace.
I feel the kambing issue has become too tired and should be well left alone.
Dato', should anyone who have left the service demand to be dined-out?
If not, who should be responsible to ensure that the tradition is carried out at the Bde and Higher Format level?

komando said...

One does not demand for an official dining out by the corp or army depending what rank one is !

It is by tradition that the serving officers take note of things and do a proper one!

I was dined out after more than 1 year since I retired!

So who is to be blame?
Blame the young officers!
Or the Corp Chairman?
Or the Urusetia?

Anybody please?