Friday, October 21, 2011

A LESSON IN HEROISM – THE SOMALIA EPISODE

On September 5, 2011, I posted an article titled, ‘The making of a hero out of our own stupidity’ that commented on the shooting incident in Somalia involving a Bernama photographer Noramfaizul Mohd Nor that led to his untimely death. Noramfaizul was on a humanitarian mission organized by Putra 1 Malaysia Club; an UMNO outfit headed by one Datuk Abdul Azeez Abd Rahim. While we ought to grieve the lost of an innocent life, I somehow think the government has been over zealous in the manner it handled the incident, that I as a former soldier finds it somewhat of a mockery.

My simple argument and reasoning is this - firstly, it is pointless to glorify a dead person when Noramfaizul’s death was the result of the organizers’ sheer stupidity in putting civilians in harm’s way, knowing full well that Somalia is the most unsafe country in the world. Didn’t the organizers know that at the height of the Somalian civil war, Malaysian soldiers have lost their lives and almost an entire platoon of Pakistani soldiers too was killed? Even the most powerful military in the world i.e the USA found it difficult to deal with Somalian rebels, and remember 'The Black Hawk Down' USA propoganda movie?

Here, I am not implying that the humanitarian mission was a worthless cause, but what I am saying is that going into a country like Somalia (despite the presence of the African Union peacekeeping troops) is still dangerous and venturing into that country by people who are clueless about the dangers confronting them smacks of ignorance and stupidity.

Secondly, I think conferring the status of a National Hero upon Noramfaizul who died without him knowing what actually killed him and in such haste, I think is most inappropriate. I do not know the basis upon which Noramfaizul was conferred a National Hero, but I do know there are a set of criterions and eligibilities upon which one is conferred an award for valor by the government, such as the SP, PGB and other gallantry awards. Such award generally relates to actions in the face of an enemy in combat. But in the case of Noramfaizul, can his death be classified as death in combat in the face of an enemy? Maybe the Malacca state government that had conferred Noramfaizul with a gallantry award can explain the rational for such an award. We know that history does tell us that Malacca had many warriors in the past (Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat and others) but I think none of the ‘Hangs’ are ever conferred the status of national or state heroes. I am not surprise that one day an award of a similar nature will be conferred to someone who died from being knocked down by a motorcycle while on duty in some war thorn country.

Thirdly, I do not know if an insurance payment of almost half a million ringgit to the family of Noramfaizul could dampen their sorrow and grief at having lost someone dear. And half a million ringgit is not an amount that the next of kin of a soldier who dies in combat is paid by its group insurance. It is far less and it is certainly not front page news in the media. I suppose, dead soldiers has little news value; unlike national sportsman and sports woman who even failed to make a cut at international sport circuit.

Fourthly, the reception given to Noramfaizul at the airport upon his arrival is like a grand circus, including the clowns and court jesters. I am not saying that he does not deserve a ‘grand reception party’ and a full police escort right to his grave site. What concerns me is that those VVIPs that were present at the airport had all the time to be away from their offices and to accompany a funeral motorcade, then to be in their office; thinking, dealing and solving national issues. Who does not sympathize with the family of Noramfaizul; I certainly do, but the least I could do is to recite the first surah of the Koran in remembrance of Noramfaizul in my prayers.

And if I could relate my experience having return home with my troops after a 15 months successful UN peacekeeping tour in Cambodia, the reception party that received us at the Johore Bahru airport was merely the Brigade Commander and of course our families. We returned home minus one soldier who died in Cambodia. There wasn’t a single VVIP and I am not at all disappointed. I think, what is more important is that we as soldiers had presented and performed well Cambodia and most of all, maintained the good name of the country.

To the organizers of the Somalian humanitarian mission, let this be a lesson to you, and if you think you want to be a hero in a country like Somalia or to any other war thorn country, my brotherly advice to you is to seek the professional advice from those soldiers that had served the country, and there are many that you can seek from.


CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION

11 comments:

Mej. A R Ramachandran (Retired) said...

"Dato',
All these "reactions"are not genuine, but one of guilt. Notice that no one owned up to poor planning, organisation etc. NO ONE BLOODY RESIGNED!!!!!I am disgusted at their behaviour now, bringing officials from Somalia to the home of the deceased, as if they cared. Your posting on this clearly shows the difference between politics and duty. We simply belong to the latter.

mike joey said...

Dato,
All your pointers on this subject
matter are very legitimate and
reasonable presented. First and foremost allow me to offer my sympathy and condolence to the family
of the deceased. His untimely death was certainly uncalled-for and unnecessary wasted. As with due respect, the Malacca Govt by conferring a gallantry award to the deceased is ignorant of the criterions and eligiblities of such awards which is very stringent. National and State War Heroes are
nowadays a 'rare commodity' and its
not for any 'Tom,Dick and Harry' for that matter. To me such gesture in awarding gallantry awards smells
of politics inclinations and to shift blame to nobody even though
UMNO youth leaders should be held responsible for his death. Again this is Malaysia and certainly the slogan 'Malaysia Bolih' is befitting. Soldiers who died in line of duty has very much less publicity and fan-fare compared to some 'sport heroes' who failed in their quest but can afford to keep on trying year after year. But combatants are never given a second chance. You failed, out you come in
a 'body-bag' that's all to it. And don't ever dream of getting half-a-million ringgit for the family. Very sad indeed. The Govt of the day has got all its priorities
wrong.

Frankie said...

Datuk,

None of the VVIPs nor the reception nor the Hero's award for the late Noramfaizul are sincere. UMNO is just trying to do damage control over UMNO Putera's stupidity which lead to noramfaizul's untimely death. But the most unkindest cut is to exploit Noramfaizul's death for political mileage.

The speech given by Najib "praising" the heroic deeds of Noramfaizul made my hairs stand as I cannot imagine how any sensible person, let alone a PM, can be so exploitative over a person's death. But this is UMNO and UMNO seeks political mileage in every imaginable thing. Even the DPM has the cheek to tell us that we should be grateful to BN (I believe he meant UMNO). What next? Should we be grateful to BN (UMNO) for the air we breathe? UMNO and its component parties have not done anything good for the Malaysian public except to plunder the country's coffers.

Unknown said...

if anyone noticed the-star newspaper report on the death of the photographer, one would have noticed the in the photograph of that reporter wearing a military/ army cap .. and the picture quoted --"taken few hours before he was shot" .. the photographer knocked the door of "angel of death" on his on will ... ignorance ?? stupidity ?? arrogance ??? ... i don't know .. but for a journalist/ photographer to wear that cap in a war zone is so stupid.

F said...

Dato,

You memtioned one soldier was killed in Cambodia, was it an accident or by hostile fire?

I remember reading in the papers that a patrol from MALBATT came under fire from an unidentified faction and one soldier was wounded? Was this during your time as CO or after?

Fariz.

Mohd Arshad Raji said...

Dear F,

The dead soldier that I referred to is LCpl Magendran a/l Rajangam who died of malaria. He actually died on flight to Thailand for medical treatment.

The incident that you mentioned was an attack by a group of unidentified persons at a platoon location in Phum Tapong located approximately 25km north of Battambang. The attack occured on the night of June 7, 1993.

The platoon suffered 3 casualties and all 3 were evacuated that same night to be treated at the Indian Medical Battalion. Fortunately all 3 survived.

All these incidents are still fresh in my mind, and thanks for reminding me.

F said...

Dato,

Thank you for your input.

I had no idea you wrote a book -''United Nations Peacekeeping Operations - The Malaysian Experience in Cambodia''.

Do you still have any spare copies lying around? I would love to buy one.

Thak you, Fariz.

Mohd Arshad Raji said...

Dear F,

Please call me at 012-3876061.

komando said...

Heroes are not made!
BUT UMNO sure can make a few!
That is what the Malays call 'SANDIWARA'

I HOPE FOR THE NEST "MISSION'

The head himself gets BLOWN AWAY for good!

naruto said...

Salam Dato

Since you bring up the issue, well I think I could share some light in your blog how 'kelam-kabut' the situation that we faced during the mission planning.

With my not so high position there in 'that office', I was called to report to office on 26 Aug for 0800 meeting for a task planning. The actual meeting took place at 0900 something because the person who suppose to carry the word from 'little emperor' had to really clear things out with his boss.

After the news broken-off to us, a lot of questions rose due to improper measures taken by the requested party. Among the question asked, why the request came so late if they planned the occassion for Hari Raya Aidilfitri? The answer was, they planned to use a charted civil aircraft initially but the charted company/airlines cannot secure insurance coverage to operate in Mogadishu.

The answer triggered a next-spontanous question, why don't they have Plan B of using Air Force's aircraft as alternative? The answer; they refuse to consider it because Air Force's C-130 is to small for them.

Since they willing to pay all the expenses for the trip (and they were cleared to), we have no choice but to entertain the request that has been cleared by the No 1. However we do make thing straight to them, we only sending them there and pick them back only. We have no business in what they want to do in Somalia. Nonetheless, we do standby in an island about 2 hours from Mogadishu in order we have to evacuate them out from there and we really have to do that!!

I do not jealous of the award given to the 'arwah'. He shared my sympathy and prayer. But I do agree that Govt of Malacca has tarnished the award that was never given to anybody before. Reading the requirement for the award, I do believe the C 130 crews do deserve it better. But then, who's care? They just did their duty and among the crews, there was a mother who had to sacrify her Hari Raya celebration with her kid because there were ladies in the pax list. Even though I pray for the safe return of all the crews and the volunteers but my heart sank when I saw a boy crying because his mother has broken the promises she made to him. It's not her fault but it is a sheer stupidity of someone else who lust for popularity.

Mohd Arshad Raji said...

Dear Naruto,

Interesting development. Thank you so much for giving me some new insight into the Somalia episode.