Laman Webantu   KM2: 6220 File Size: 3.7 Kb *

| KM2 Index |

MGG: Malaysia to buy heavy military tanks
By M.G.G. Pillai

24/10/2001 12:55 am Wed

The defence minister, and the man the Prime Minister would rather have as his successor, Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak, made a curious announcement shortly after the Lima defence show was over this month: Malaysia would buy main military tanks. It was not explained what this meant, nor why, nor what it cost, nor even if they were suitable for the tropical forests in which they would operate. But the main battle tanks he talks about are heavy-duty and heavy tanks for offence for use in a terrain Malaysia does not have. The United States have the A-1 M-1 Abrams tanks and the Russians the T-72. Neither can stand up to the rigours of the tropical jungles in Malaysia. So, why is Malaysia interested in main battle tanks that is of no use? Tanks are offensive weapons, for attack than defence. Who is then the enemy? Is it Singapore or Thailand? And how was the decision arrived at?

The Panhard medium light tanks the Malaysian armed forces bought 30 years ago had to be scrapped because even they were not designed for Malaysia's terrain. Even the Cadillac armoured carriers for the police were all but useless in anti-communist actions, the terrain too soft for them to be used with effect. And now, Malaysia considers main battle tanks. In military purchases, the kickbacks are high, especially so in Malaysia, and that is why Malaysia is receptive to any huckster with some military equipment to sell.

So, it is with some surprise that the defence minister, who along amongst the cabinet is interested in geopolitical and defence issues, does not see the folly of buying these battle tanks. Who decided on it? The Armed Forces Council usually takes the decision. That is headed by the Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Mahathir Mohamed. But there are experts amongst the military officers on it to have raised the objections they should in conscience have. Did they?

So we come to why we need these battle tanks. Their purchase, even if they are thoroughly unsuited to the terrain, sends wrong signals to our neighbours, Singapore and Thailand. Our relations with either is not as good as it should be. The banks should have been considered only if their purchase would not raise shackles amongst our neighbours. Otherwise, the two countries would beef up their defences far more carefully and for defence and offence, leaving our defences open to attack. Malaysia considered buying submarines. They dilly dallied, unable to make up their minds, while competent proposals from numerous arms sales men, usually retired military officers and their captive politicians (or is it vice versa?), and which one is bought often depending on the scale of the commissions proferred.

Meanwhile, the neighbours, seeing this, had quietly beefed up their defences in anticipation. Malaysia then catches up, without forethought or care, to buy weapons that are virtually useless. Sophisticated technology and cutting edge of military hardware is of no use if there are no competent men and women to maintain them, as is often the case in Malaysia. The defence minister should therefore explain why Malaysia needs these heavy duty battle tanks, to Parliament and the country at large. For his decision tickles the sleeping dogs north and south of Malaysia's borders, and raise the ante unnecessarily.

M.G.G. Pillai