One of the things introduced by the Najib Razak administration is for Ministers to go down to the ground and meet with the frontliners, learn about the problems that they face as well as consider the proposals from them on how things can be done better. The days of “I’m a Minister therefore I know better” or “You are new therefore you know nothing” are over.
Sun Tzu quoted in Chapter 10 of the ‘Art of War‘:
“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.“
Taking queue from both his boss and Sun Tzu, Minister of Defence Dato’ Sri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein rushed off to Kuantan after the conclusion of the recent National Security Council meeting to rendezvous with the Royal Malaysian Navy frigate KD Lekiu which was conducting a patrol in the South China Sea. Despite the very limited time that he has, he made it a point to meet the frontliners to see how they are getting on while keeping the nation safe and secure during the fasting month.
Hishamuddin, who was accompanied by the Chief of the Armed Forces General Tan Sri Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor, and the Chief of Navy Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin RMN, landed on board the KD Lekiu at 5.30pm and was met by the Commanding Officer of the KD Lekiu, Captain Mohd Fadzli Kamal Mohd Mohaldin RMN who then gave the Minister a short safety briefing.
When the Ec725 helicopter took off and flew by the starboard side of the KD Lekiu, Hishammuddin said, “That helicopter crew is excellent, and for it to be able to land on this ship shows great cooperation between the Air Force and the Navy. That is how the services, the Army included, depend on each other for support.”
True enough. It was the first time that the KD Lekiu had accepted the EC725 on its flight deck.
On board the Minister spent his time talking to the officers and men, asking them how do they find spending Ramadhan and Aidil Fitri away from home. There are times that the KD Lekiu, like many other man-o-wars in the navy, have to spend up to three months at sea away from home, regardless of the festive seasons.
Through the Royal Malaysian Navy’s “Rakan Maritim” (RAKAM) program where the maritime community especially the commercial fishermen work hand-in-hand with the Navy to provide information especially on crime at sea, the fishing community has been providing such support especially through the “Initiatif Bertanya Khabar” (IBK) conducted by the individual naval vessels that are on patrol. A fishing trawler that was hailed came alongside.
Encik Ramli bin Isa and Fauzi bin Omar had been out at sea for four days with another crew member. The moment they realised that it was the Minister himself whom had helped them up, their face lit up. The Minister, General Raja Mohamed Affandi and Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman asked them how they were and if they find that the waters are safe from foreign elements.
I later asked the two fishermen of the Navy’s initiative. They are very happy with it and find it reassuring that the Navy has been actively making its presence felt. On meeting the Minister, they were very surprised that a Minister would want to even ask how they are.
“I know he must be really busy but for him to make time to ask me how I am is like having a dream come true,” said Encik Ramli.
Hishammuddin later gave some food to the fishermen for them to break fast with.
Hishammuddin later had a talk with some of the crew which was also attended by the Commanding Officer and the Chief of Navy. There, the Minister related to the men the government’s plans for the Navy, and how the Ministry is working hard to facilitate the Navy’s 15-to-5 transformation program.
Tan Sri Kamarulzaman is happy with the progress of the 15-to-5 transformation program where the Royal Malaysian Navy will limit its fleet types to just five instead of the current fifteen. The program will see the RMN operating only Littoral Mission Ships, Littoral Combat Ships, New Generaion Patrol Vessels, Multirole Support Ships, and Submarines.
As we waited for maghrib prayers, Dato’ Sri Hishammuddin said to me, “I’m amazed by these navy people. They stay months at sea guarding our waters. ”
“I guess we’ll just have to make the public understand about what they do out here,” I replied.
The Minister frowned and replied with a sigh, “That is another matter. It is so difficult to get the public to understand wht these people do here, the hardship they have to go through. Imagine if these people are not here to do their duty. Mosul, Aleppo can happen here.”
It is so damned hard to get the support of the people, especially from the non-Malays, let alone to get them to join. But when something happens, they would be the first to condemn, especially so in the case of the fatal crash that killed two of our RMAF pilots.
How the realisation that without the Malaysian Armed Forces this country would be in ruins escapes them puzzles me. It is because of these men and women that they are able to wake up in the morning and make money, and then go home to sleep peacefully.
Perhaps it is time for the National Service to be what it is – a two-year active duty upon attaining the age of 18, followed by a 10-year stint as reservists. That would probably make them have a better understanding of the Armed Forces and love the country as something more than just a place to make money in.
In the meantime, the men of the KD Lekiu will continue to be vigilant so we can all wake up shamelessly in total ignorance of their existence.