What You Think

Military ranks earned, not reward for political or public celebrity — Lt-Col (ret) Mohd Idris Hassan

MAY 3 — As long as I can remember and it is important that we consider this, the only other persons outside the military who donned military uniform were our royalty (the Raja Raja) in their capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of the various Corps that made up our armed forces that included the navy and air force. It is largely a ceremonial position that is a common feature in several Commonwealth armies.

However, our country is unique. We have nine Raja Raja who in order of seniority act as patron to the corresponding senior unit they are assigned. It is more or less a permanent inherited position that is, a well-respected custom that remains unchanged to this day.

Military officers whether serving or retired are very proud of our uniform, ranks and military accoutrements. The king, who is also our commander-in-chief, by way of a formal document commissions us. We undergo rigorous training at the various officers training academies domestic and foreign to be commissioned as second lieutenants (one pip) as our initial rank.

It is a long and arduous journey as we progress through a maze of military requirements that consists of passing promotion examinations and career courses to earn a higher rank. Few ever qualify for the rank of general of various grades but as professional soldiers we serve our country and navigate the complex eco system of military service to excel professionally.

Those who served during the height of the Emergency and the Indonesian Confrontation as front line troops bore the full brunt of those conflicts. Many of our comrades were maimed and others made the ultimate sacrifice. Thus the weight of history is borne by all who wear the military uniform, and whatever exclusivity it brings is defined by those who served and continue to serve our “tanah air.”

As military officers, we are very concerned that of late, politicians have begun dispensing “commission ranks” — colonels, generals and captains (navy) — among themselves which also extends to other celebrities such as singers, actors, sportsmen and social activists. None of these people have ever fired a shot in defence of the realm or done a day of military training.

Some even proudly display the converted Parachute Badge commonly referred as “Jump Wings” without doing a single jump. There are also cases where certain individuals have the audacity to don the converted maroon beret of our commando units. We adhere to the belief and convention that no one other than the Raja Raja have the right to this honour.

I think it is time we put a stop to these so-called honorary ranks and unauthorised use of military accoutrements. If there is a need for such ranks to be handed out then those chosen need to at least pass basic military training before even being considered for such an honour.

Otherwise, those “rewarded” dishonour the service of men and women, who have actually earned their ranks in the process of serving their king and country.

And lastly I would like to add that of late that large number of non military organisations have all gone “al military/police” by wearing military type ranks, insignias and camouflage uniform to the boot. Let's keep the ranks of lieutenant, captain, major, colonel etc strictly for the military only.

The top echelon of these organisations have also chosen to wear the cross swords/kris an insignia normally reserved for our top generals and very senior police officers. By doing so they not only confuse the public but our soldiers and policemen as to their standing in protocol.

The country should have only two recognised institutions known as the uniformed service that's the army and the police.

It's about time our authorities do something about by having proper guidelines to this effect.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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