Yesterday, April 29th 2010, I attended the ‘Reunion of Former Officers’ of 15th Battalion, Royal Malay Regiment, who had served the battalion during the era of the 70’s, held at KGPA. The battalion was formally established in August 1969 at Rasah Camp, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan; in the same camp that was the home of the British Gurkha Brigade.
The first CO of the battalion was Lt Col Othman Harun (retired in the rank of Lt Gen) who was himself present at the function, and including the third CO Lt Col Ismail Salleh PGB (retired in the rank of Colonel). The second CO Lt Col Abd Rahman Lassim (retired in the rank of Colonel) was however not able to attend the function. All three were the COs of the battalion during the era of the 70’s, with Lt Col Abd Rahman Lassim being the longest serving CO; reportedly for a period of 5 years.
Also making an appearance at the function was the first Battalion Second in Command, Mej Nordin Yusoff (retired in the rank of Maj Gen) and the first group of Company Commanders and battalion staff officers. In all, there were a total of 32 former officers that attended the function (including three serving officers) from a total of 78 that were listed. We were also informed that a total of 6 officers of the era are now deceased.
One may recall that it was also towards the end of the 60’s, the British government had initiated a policy to withdraw all its forces ‘East of the Suez’. Hence, we saw all British occupied camps in Kedah, Johore, Negeri Sembilan, Penang and Malacca were gradually handed over to the Malaysian government to be occupied by the military.
I remembered, as a staff officer of the newly raised 6 Brigade HQ, I was a party to the takeover of the two Gurkha Camps in Sg. Petani, Kedah, and including Minden Barracks (presently USM) in Penang island; the latter camp was subsequently handed over to the Education Ministry. The British vacated the camps leaving behind stacks of furniture, carpets and even some cutleries; some were later taken into stock, and some ‘disappeared’.
Now, the above reunion function was held for the first time, organised by an inspiring group of retirees led by its Advisor Col Ismail Salleh and a committee of 7 retired officers. Through the effort of Lt Col Noor Mohammed and his committee, they were able to obtain and compiled details of almost all former officers that had served the battalion during the era of the 70’s in a simple booklet. There are still a handful of former officers that could not be traced, as their records are not available with the Veteran Affairs Department.
I was thoroughly pleased to have met my former superiors, and almost all my platoon commanders who have all passed the ‘century mark’. I would say that I was one of the longest serving officers of the battalion i.e. 5 years, and during that period I had the opportunity of commanding three different rifle companies. Being long in the battalion, I could master the names of almost every soldier in the battalion, and some are still in touch with me. I could also feel that those present at the function have not lost their soldierly spirit, their sense of loyalty to one another, and the spirit de corps; true to the saying that ‘the friendship among soldiers are for a life time’.
Following lunch, the stage was taken over by Lt Col Noor Mohammed who spoke at length of having served all the three COs, and the peculiarity and idiosyncrasy that he found in each one of them. It was all said in jest, and it was meant to reminisce how the subordinate officers viewed their ‘bosses’.
One may also recall that the period of the 70’s were the most trying period for the army as it was the period of the revival of the communist insurgency. It is quite normal for a battalion after having been out on operations for a three months period, would only be rested for less than a month, before the battalion is recalled back into operations. There are many stories and incidences that one could relate, particularly with regards to the command proficiency and ability of COs during military operations. The period of the 70’s was indeed a period where COs were tested to the limits, and when a contact with the communist was made, one could see the flurry of activities surrounding the HQ, including the sudden arrival of officers from higher HQ. Lt Col Noor Mohammed was able to reminisce some of such incidences, where many may have already forgotten.
Present too at the function was retired Lt Col Abd Manaf Kasmuri, a former officer of the battalion and also a former ISA detainee, who gave an exposition of his involvement with the Bosnian forces during the Bosnian conflict. His involvement in Bosnia was one of Jihad, and he never felt that his actions were that of a terrorist as claimed. The perception that a ‘Jihadist’ is synonymous to a ‘terrorist’ is merely a western creation; and definitely not one of a Muslim perception. His arrest, and subsequently his incarceration for a period of 3 years as an ISA detainee by the Malaysian authorities upon his return from Bosnia, can thus be debated. The question that needs to be asked is whether Lt Col Abd Manaf Kasmuri was rightfully detained for being a ‘terrorist’, or wrongfully detained for being a ‘Jihadist’.
The final speaker to address the gathering was the first CO, retired Mej Gen Dato’ Othman Harun who delved on some historical perspective of the creation of the Royal Malay Regiment, in particular with regards to what is termed as the ‘Wasiat Raja Raja Melayu’. Sadly, I am not well converse with the subject while I was in service, but the brief talk by Mej Gen Dato Othman Harun gave us what we ought to know about the creation of the regiment the moment we are commissioned into the regiment. I believe not many in service today know the existence of the ‘Wasiat’, and I believe it is the failure of the regiment not to understand the meaning and purpose of the ‘Wasiat’, that have led the regiment astray.
The gathering has certainly brought the ‘old timers and the forgotten ones’ to reaffirm their friendship and lost comradeship. And as Muslims, the reaffirmation of friendship is a religious obligation, and must never be breached. This was what the gathering has achieved.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION