On December 23, 2011, the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) saw the passing of a great Malaysian warrior and former Chief of Defence Forces Gen Tun Ibrahim Ismail, who at the age of 88 was the only surviving military officer to have served the second World War, the first Malayan Emergency, the communist resurgence and the racial of May 13, 1969, and the Malaysian/Indonesian Confrontation. Gen Tun Ibrahim’s charismatic and colourful military career ended with his retirement in 1977, to be replaced by Gen Tan Sri Sany Abdul Ghafar.
The late Gen Tun Ibrahim was not known for his tantrum that is usually associated with some military officers. I have never served under Gen Tun Ibrahim as a staff officer, but have met him on several occasions i.e. on his visits to units and formation headquarters. I did post an article about him titled “Gen Tun Ibrahim – The Malay Warrior” dated July 10, 2008, and among others, described my personal experience as a subaltern with him, while I was on operations in the lone military outpost at Bakalalan, Sarawak in 1967.
Many have noticed that Gen Tun Ibrahim is the first and only military officer to have been bestowed the Seri Setia Mahkota Malaysia (SSM) that carries the honorific title of Tun. Likewise, for the Royal Malaysia Police, the title was bestowed to former Inspector General of Police, Tun Hanif. And many may not have noticed that Gen Tun Ibrahim was awarded the title many years after he had retired from the military, unlike Tun Hanif who was awarded the title while he was still in service.
I am told that there is a restricted quota to the number of SSM’s that can be awarded by the government to deserving living recipients’ i.e to only 25. Now, with the passing of Gen Tun Ibrahim, the question that needs to be asked is whether the SSM be bestowed to another living and deserving senior military officer? I suppose there are several to elect from, and I believe many serving military officers and all those that have retired would want the SSM be awarded to another senior military officer. I do not know the criteria for the nomination for the award, but I do believe that the recipient has to be a person that had served the nation with distinction, and certainly not a figure that is likely to be mired in controversies.
If I were given the opportunity to name the most deserving senior military officer to be awarded the lofty SSM, I would certainly name Gen Tan Sri Sany bin Abdul Ghafar. For all who had known him and had served him would say this i.e. that he was the person who had a heart for the soldiers well being, and he stood firmly by it. Gen Tan Sri Sany too had a colourful and charismatic military career, and was distinguished as being the first serving military to be assigned as an Ambassador while in the rank of Major General.
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