Among the more important aspects of welfare that the government has to look after without fail is healthcare. Fortunately, public healthcare in Malaysia already has a good foundation. The only thing that needs to be done is for it to be better enhanced.
Among the issues that has to be addressed is of the issue of the glut of medical practitioners in this country. Every year, about 5,000 new doctors are produced, including 1,000 from overseas universities and colleges. The problem now is that these new doctors have to do two years of housemanship in government hospitals before they can be recognised as general practitioners. The problem is, government hospitals could only take in 10,000 housemen at any one time. Therefore, new doctors would have to wait between eight months to a year before they could do their housemanship.
Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad’s recent announcement that the Klinik 1 Malaysia will be enhanced by locating doctors and proper drug-dispensing units could help the situation. Not only that, it would alleviate the congestion that we see at almost all Klinik Kesihatan on a daily basis. There are 196 Klinik 1 Malaysia currently operating on a 24-hour basis manned by an Assistant Medical Officer and nurses. Having at least twelve doctors doing three eight-hour shifts would allow for more medical graduates to be absorbed.
If the financing mechanism could be formulated, the Skim Peduli Sihat nationwide extension could also help private clinics, especially those in the urban and suburban areas whose business is affected by the presence of Klinik 1 Malaysia. The idea is for the B40 group to be able to seek basic healthcare at private clinics for RM500 per family per year, or for individuals above the age of 21 earning above RM1,500 a month, RM200 per person per year. This would certainly help private clinics and help alleviate the congestion at Klinik Kesihatan.
I certainly hope that the government would roll these initiatives out soon. The government must be seen to be serious in making reforms, and not look back and blame the previous government. Pakatan Harapan is now the government and has all the means to improve the situation. For now, Dr Dzul is on the right track. I hope he would be able to move forward with healthcare reforms.
It has been more than a month since UMNO’s disastrous show in its history of general elections. Although as an individual party UMNO has the most number of parliamentary seats won, it effectively controls two states – a far cry from the grand old party it once was.
As a party, it has failed to show its support for its leadership (I shall go into this a bit more later) it failed to garner the support of the young and first time voters; it failed to retain the support of those who have been its staunch supporters. Most importantly, UMNO failed to remember the reason for very existence.
I sense nothing but trepidation in the first few weeks after the general elections when one by one government institutions come under “reforms”, and then the attacks on the Rulers Institution, namely the institution of the Yang DiPertuan Agong. Hardly any word came out from UMNO’s leadership save for those that came from the normal members.
The strong hands that led to the resignation of two of our nation’s top judges also did not result in strong rebukes from UMNO despite it being a direct interference by one instrument of His Majesty’s government into another.
Of course I am of the opinion that the two top judges are also idiots for caving in and resigning as demanded. It was their job to show the independence of the judiciary and to protect the integrity of their institution, yet they failed miserably to show the example of stewardship to their subordinates as those in charge of that institution.
UMNO is a far cry of what it was back in the late 1970s, let alone what it was in 1946. Losing its power to govern also means that UMNO no longer enjoys the facilities that come with being a government. There have been members who left the party for the other side just because funds are no longer readily available as it was prior to May 9.
Branches find it difficult to hold their annual general meetings because the community halls are no longer available to them. Furthermore, they do not receive sufficient funds to hold their meetings at hotel meeting rooms. They have never had it this difficult and have no institutional memory of how it was before 1981 and Malaysia Incorporated. Members simply do not have the same fighting spirit possessed by their forefathers. What has happened to the ‘unity is strength spirit?
Furthermore, branches were set up without actually soliciting the support of the local residents. You can find that many of the branches are filled with people who are not from where the branch is actually located. How can these people understand the local issues? Branch leadership pays the annual membership fees for fear of being deregistered. How many UMNO members actually go to their respective branch to pay their annual dues?
Which is why at every UMNO General Assembly the Secretary-General would read out the number of UMNO members to-date, not realising that those are false numbers. It would have been almost impossible for UMNO to only get 2.55 million votes, including from non-UMNO members when there are 4 million members!
When the President was attacked from outside and within the party three years ago, hardly anyone stood up to defend him save for a few like Rahman Dahlan, Salleh Said and Ahmad Maslan. There was no ‘defending of the institution of the President’. It was every man for himself. I am of the opinion that members are to defend the leadership of the party when attacked, and change the leadership from within if needed.
How many division actually hold sessions with all members to explain about party policies, how to handle current critical issues after each general assembly? How many members who represented the division members actually attend the general assembly to listen to the speeches and proposals put forth by each state, instead of wanting to get as close as possible to personalities trying to push proposals or hand business cards to them?
There was very little done by UMNO divisions and branches to win the hearts and minds of the community they were supposed to represent. I only see programmes done for their own members.
On the federal level, you see more of UMNO members and members of the BN component parties attending ministerial events than from members of the local community. I chanced upon an event attended by a former federal minister who was lending support to a BN parliamentary candidate in one of my rounds to gauge the election temperature. Of the hundreds who attended, perhaps only a handful – less than 100 were from the local community. The rest were those who were following the former Minister, members of the RELA, police, local council and government officers from an agency the former Minister presided. You cannot gauge how much do the locals actually like the candidate because they were swamped by these extras.
UMNO is also famous for having one-off self-gratification programmes – blood donation, voters registration, skateboarding, free car wash. Unlike with the DAP, there were no follow-ups, no explanation done on why voters should be voting for BN, what a BN victory would mean for the voters.
UMNO’s information machinery at the branch and division levels was also absent. I have never seen any UMNO ‘ceramah’ at any kampung except during by-elections and general elections. Now that UMNO is the opposition, where is this machinery? It has been one month but everyone seems to be busy eyeing for party positions. Pakatan was already at it the moment the results of the previous general elections came out, and they never stopped.
UMNO needs a total overhaul and improvement in terms of mind-set, approach and its constitution. It needs to look at how PAS conducts itself as an opposition party, and its consistency.
In its party elections delegates would have to forget nostalgia. Some have not moved on from the ‘Najib Days’. Wake up. Najib is gone. He has stepped down. He may have been the best Prime Minister and party president but his branding failed. There is no point reviving that.
Instead, UMNO needs to look forward and have an approach that is outside the box. Vote for different people to do different things. The party president should not also be the person who is the Prime Minister-designate. The Prime Minister-designate should also not be the parliamentary Leader of the Opposition. UMNO would be better run if these three people are different people altogether. And top party offices cannot be held for more than two terms.
UMNO also needs to open up to members of other races – not necessarily as members, but members of an appendage: Friends of UMNO, who cannot vote in party meetings, but can run on UMNO ticket during elections. After all, UMNO used to have non-Malay members. PAS has been successful with this approach. There are so many BN-friendly non-Malays out there who do not want to be associated with the other BN component parties (there are only four BN parties left) but support the BN concept.
Talking about membership, UMNO should also allow for direct memberships, approved only at the headquarters level. This would allow for young professionals to join the party without being blocked by branch or division heads. And do away with the quota system if it is still there. As long as a member gets one nomination from a branch (or division for a national-level post), he or she should be eligible to run for any post in the division.
If UMNO is serious about making a comeback, it needs to forget the form it morphed into after 1981. It needs to evolve, incorporating the non-Malays for support, have its leadership subscribe to more accountability. Most importantly it needs to embrace the spirit of 1946 and have members who would not mind sacrificing for the party without ever expecting anything back. It needs to have hundreds of its own Rafizis without the negative aspects, and an information machinery that is aggressively going out there to win the hearts and minds of the masses. UMNO has to become a constructive opposition, with real professionals running and representing the party.
Until then, it can just dream on and wait for another 61 years.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force turns 60 today. Despite turning a year older, the RMAF still maintains the theme of last year’s celebration which is “Air Power Pillar of National Sovereignty” (Kuasa Udara Tonggak Kedaulatan Negara). Yet, despite being a critical element in force projection and taking the fight away from the nation’s territory, the RMAF suffers from lack of attention. The Army has had new equipment added into their inventory including MD530G armed scout helicopters while the Navy has begun embarking on its 15-to-5 fleet modernisation, the Air Force has not seen any major purchases other than the inclusion of the Airbus A400M three years ago.
The responsibility of defending Malaysia’s airspace falls on the shoulders of the Boeing F/A-18D Hornets and the Sukhoi Su-30MKM Flankers. The latter are now undergoing its 10-year service programme which affects the number of aircraft available. The revival of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29N Fulcrums came to a halt when the previous government decided not to fund their refurbishment. And whether there will be any funding for the Multirole Combat Aircraft (MRCA) programme remains to be seen. As it is right now, I doubt that the MRCA is at the top of the RMAF’s priority list. There are other pressing issues.
MRCA versus LCA/LIFT
Like it or not, MRCAs are very expensive to operate. And the RMAF suffers from having too many types of aircraft in its inventory, creating a logistical nightmare. Many of the interceptions over the South China Sea are done by the BAe System Hawk 208 light multirole fighters. The Hawks are more than 20 years old now and are affected by wear and tear. Subsonic with a thrust to weight ratio of 0.65, the Hawks are not the ideal aircraft for such jobs. Wear and tear due to age is also causing the RMAF to not be able to provide real flying hours for its younger pilots. Although its simulators can now provide high-fidelity training, there is nothing like getting a bird in the air in a real environment.
Once all the Sukhoi Su-30MKM Flankers have undergone the 10th year servicing, the RMAF would have an adequate number of multirole fighters. Therefore, rather than getting MRCAs at this juncture, the RMAF should concentrate on getting light combat aircraft cum lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) aircraft that could minimise the time needed to fully develop its fighter pilots. During World War 2, the Imperial Japanese Navy could not train its combat pilots sufficiently causing it to lose air superiority. Although its aircraft industry could churn out more aircraft, replacement pilots could not be trained fast enough. This is a situation the RMAF needs to avoid. It has to have a sufficient number of very capable and modern LIFT aircraft and a combat version to operate from. More modern contenders such as the Yakovlev Yak-130 and its Italian version the Alenia Aermacchi M-346, as well as the Korea Aerospace Industries KAI T-50 and its light combat aircraft version the FA-50.
A consideration that needs to be taken by the RMAF is the thrust-to-weight ratio of the contenders. The Yak-130/M-346 offer a ratio of 0.70 versus the T-50’s 0.96. The rate of climb for the Yak-130/M-346 is at 10,000 feet per minute while the T-50/FA-50 is at 39,000 feet per minute. The T-50/FA-50 has a digital fly-by-wire (FBW) system as do the Yak-130/M-346, but taking into consideration the commonality of logistics and spares, the T-50/FA-50 uses the same powerplant as the RMAF Boeing F/A-18D Hornets. Furthermore, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia are already using the T-50.
The RMAF should consider having about 36 of the FA-50 variant and 12 T-50 LIFT variant. This would not only prepare enough fighter pilots who would easily migrate to the new MRCAs, but would also complement the current number of MRCAs plus do a better job intercepting bogeys than the Hawks would. Once these are in place, the RMAF can do away with its Hawks and Aermacchi MC339CM.
There used to be a time when the RMAF slogan “Sentiasa Di Angkasaraya” (Always In The Air) was true. Seeing fighters flying overhead often drove many to join the RMAF. We had so many birds flying in a day that even the Air Traffic and Air Defence Controllers had good training. So, getting the number of airframes in the air is what matters.
In the end, when the RMAF does get its MRCAs, it should limit itself to just one type. The economies of scale of purchasing many of one type far outweighs the buying of several of several types. And that is not rocket science.
Enhancing Its Transport/Helicopter Capabilities
Other than having MRCAs and LIFT/LCA, the RMAF also operates various types of transport and helicopter capabilities. Fixed-wing transport aircraft (other than for VIP transport role) include the Airbus A400M, Lockheed C-130H and the IPTN CN-235. The Sikorsky S-61A4 Nuri and the Eurocopter EC725 Caracal make up the helicopter inventory.
The C-130H and Nuri helicopters are definitely more than 20 years old. The C-130H is definitely in need of an Aircraft Upgrade Program (AUP) to address fatigue and cracks. Contrary to popular belief, the A400M was not acquired to replace the C-130H. The A400M is to take a strategic role while the C-130H maintains its tactical role. Both types are needed in the RMAF inventory as they complement each other. What the RMAF needs to do is to offload its Nuri helicopters to the Army (which is already operating several hand-me-down Nuris) and acquire more EC725s. The former is far better for transporting infantrymen and howitzers into the battlefield while the latter is more suitable for Search-and-Rescue operations as well as the insertion and extraction of special forces elements.
Another role that the RMAF should consider offloading is the maritime patrol role. This role only complements the Royal Malaysian Navy’s operations, and should therefore be handed over to the RMN. It makes no sense in having the Air Force pay for the cost of Navy operations.
Sufficient number of training hours flown by the transport pilots are also crucial. One incident has caused an uproar among observers, when the new Minister of Defence flew to a berbuka puasa event with RMAF personnel at the Butterworth Air Base in a RMAF Airbus A400M aircraft. The public must be aware that whether or not the Minister was on board, the A400M would still have flown – if not on that day, then on another, empty or otherwise – just so the pilots could clock at least minimum flying hours for the month.
As the Minister was invited by the RMAF to attend the event, it was arranged for the Minister as well as RMAF top brass and other personnel from Kuala Lumpur (there were 59 passengers on board in total that day) to be flown on the A400M so that the air crew could get their required hours.
Enhancing Radar/Early Warning Capabilities
In the old days, watchtowers were built as high as they could in order to provide the defenders with a form of early warning. We now have air defence radars scattered all over the country. These radars are in constant need of upgrading works to keep them updated. Funds must be made readily available for these radar to be able to operate continuously around the clock.
The RMAF lacks an eye-in-the-sky. From the days when I joined the RMAF in the 1980s, the AWACS have always been sought after but never procured. An AWACS provides the RMAF as well as the RMN a good detail of what is happening both in the sky and at sea. Four AWACS with good loiter endurance based in Kuching working round-the-clock should suffice. Kuching is at the nearest point between Borneo and the Peninsular, and covers the South China Sea easily. This is where, Maritime Patrol Aircraft with anti-ship and anti-submarine capability should be made available for the RMN to complement the its role especially in the South China Sea.
I am not sure but I believe we cannot see much of what is beyond the Crocker range in Sarawak. Mobile radar systems could be stitched along the range to provide better coverage of what goes beyond the range. The data can be fed via satellite or HF system. The RMAF’s HF system is more than capable of providing accurate radar picture of the area.
The Malaysian Army’s “top secret” Vera-E passive radar system should also make its data available and fed into the RMAF’s current air defence radar system to enhance the capability of the the latter. There is nothing so secret about the Vera-E. Several keys tapped on Google and one would be able to find out about the Malaysian procurement of the system. I am flabbergasted that the Malaysian Army has yet to share the Vera-E data with the RMAF. And I first wrote about this back in June 2015!
A Total Change In The Procurement System Is Needed
The RMAF used to operate the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29N Fulcrums. Received in 1995, the two squadrons of MiG-29Ns no longer exist. In contrast, the Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) has a squadron of MiG-29B acquired in 1999. All its MiG-29Bs will be upgraded to the MiG-29SMT. Why can the BAF maintain its fleet of MiG-29s when we can’t?
The answer is probably in the procurement system.
There are just too many layers of companies to go through when we acquired the MiG-29Ns. Spare parts get too expensive to buy when there are too many layers of companies to go through. There were talks of producing parts for the MiG-29N locally somewhere in Gambang, Pahang, but I guess that never materialised for some reason. In the end, the MiG-29N became too expensive to maintain and operate, and I suspect the same applies to many equipment of the Malaysian Armed Forces.
There were times in the past when the end user got what they did not want. It is imperative that the end user gets to dictate the equipment that they want, while the civilian administrators and the politicians seek the funds needed for those procurements, and not interfere in the process.
It is encouraging to hear that the new Minister of Defence will be looking at reforming some aspects of the Ministry of Defence. I really hope that the procurement system will be reformed as well to do away with these layers of companies marking up prices before the end users get their equipment.
Until the reform in the procurement process happens, neither the RMAF, nor the RMN, nor the Army, will ever get what they really want. Such wastage should be nipped and no longer be allowed.
Addressing the budget constraint faced by the government, the RMAF Chief General Tan Sri Dato Sri Haji Affendi bin Buang RMAF said that no matter the situation, the RMAF will always ensure that the sovereignty of the nation is never compromised.
“We shall prioritise our needs and ensure that the sovereignty of this beloved nation is NOT compromised in any way despite the budget constraints.”
General Affendi added that the RMAF has planned for the next 35 years to increase its level of preparedness and combat capabilities.
I certainly hope to see the RMAF have a better future, and hopefully, with a fresh new Minister leading, the required reforms could be made so that the RMAF will truly be what it used to be.
Happy 60th Anniversary, RMAF. May the next 60 years be better than the previous ones.
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