MALAYSIA IN DEEP TROUBLE: SCANDAL-TAINTED NAJIB HAS LAUNCHED HIS OWN PRIVATE ARMY, SIDESTEPPING THE KING?
Before you start hashtagging the police in the comments, please read on first.
In case ugaiz may have forgotten, the National Security Council (NSC) Act has been in effect since August 1st. If you haven’t heard of the NSC yet, the two sen intro is that it gives the Prime Minister the power to declare a what’s essentially a mini-Darurat in any part of the country – something that only the Agong can do. If you’re unfamiliar with the NSC, you should definitely give our previous article on it a read – it’s pretty scary.ANYWAYS, since then, news on the NSC has been relatively quiet till a couple days ago when PM Najib officiated theNational Special Operations Force(NSOF) – amilitary team under the direct command of the NSC.
Image from New Straits times Online.
But why is this second army thing such a big deal? Well, we spoke to Political Analyst Yin Shao Loong and he tells us there’s a reason why a military force is never under the direct command of an elected leader; but before we get into that, let’s first learn a little more about the NSOF…
They will be the first to show up in the Security Area – and they will be fully armed!
PM Najib calls the NSOF a“first-responder” team, meaning that in any situation where the NSC declares a Security Zone, they will be the first people who’ll swoop in to control situationand take down any threatsBEFORE the police and/or the military arrives. The team currently consists of17 officers and 170 personnel from the Malaysian Armed Forces, PDRM, and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
If you’re wondering where the funding for the NSOF is coming from, the short answer is that we don’t know.There’s very little information other than PM Najib’s speech at the launch, and we couldn’t find any allocations mentioned in the 2017 Budget. Shao Loong thinks funding could be coming from the Prime Minister’s Department or the Total Security System outlined by the National Blue Ocean Strategy (Part of the 11th Malaysia Plan). PM Najib mentions this as well:
“NSOF’s establishment is based on the principle of the national blue ocean strategy where we will share our assets, abilities and forces, under a single chain of command. – PM Najib, as quoted by The Sun Daily.
So what big threat is the country facing that we need such measures? Well…
The NSOF was put together to combat threats that… have yet to be decided.
Here’s the quote from PM Najib himself when asked what kind of threat would require the deployment of the NSOF:
“The threat will be decided. If something happens, the National Security Council will make a report to the Inspector-General of Police and the army chief.” – PM Najib, as quoted by Channel News Asia.
And the reason we used that particular title for this article is because of PM Najib’s following sentence, since the Prime Minister is the head of the NSC:
But “second army” isn’t the right word. Shao Loong says the right term to describe the NSOF is “militarized police” and here’s the difference – the function of the police is to handle domestic (internal) security while the military handles external threats. Shao Loong further explains this for us:
“The composition of the NSOF shares the same problems as the NSC – It involves the military in domestic affairs. The military is supposed to be a tool for defence or war between states. Internal security is the job of the police. Domestic terrorism therefore is a police issue. This is how the Malayan Emergency was run, with the police in the front line...” – Shao Loong, in Whatsapp interview with CILISOS.
And if you still think this is making a mountain out of a molehill, guess which country is currently dealing with issues of police militarization now? Here’s a clue – #BlackLivesMatter.
all of which inevitably get used in civilian protests. Again, we’re talking about the US here, but doesn’t it all sound familiar?
If you are finding this worrying, better whip out the anti-anxiety medication because…
The NSOF isn’t the only domestic security force that’s getting militarized!
Is that a soldier? Nope. RELA volunteer. Image from i1os.
In Malaysia, the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces is the Agong. This is in line with other democratic countries in which the military is NEVER under the command of an elected leader. In the UK, the military is led by the Queen, and even though the President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief of the American armed forces, his (or her) decisions can be vetoed by the US Supreme Court. Usually though, even if a Prime Minister or President is the Commander-in-Chief of the army, they have to get the permission of the parliament or senate to go to war.
This is all for one major reason – checks and balances in terms of accountability for what a military might do. In fact, There are several countries in which a leader has full and direct command over the military, and there’s a name for these kinds of governments… but HEY! Let’s go back to talking about the US!
Back in Malaysia, the NSOF actually the third militarized force formed in recent years that exists as under a different command from the Agong. The other two are usually the guys you’d usually call to help you direct traffic or remove snakes from your house :-
RELA (People’s Volunteer Corps) – The Malaysian Volunteer Force Act in 2012 gave them official powers to take on civilian peacekeeping duties in times of Emergency which is okay, since that was why RELA was formed in the first place, BUT it also gave them military ranks, uniform, and training; which is not okay because RELA is under the Home Ministry and not the Agong.
Geek joke. Heheh. Original image was from teamliquid.net.prx.proxyunblocker.org
But does Malaysia really need such measures to jaga our security?
This happened in Kota Damansara, MALAYSIA. Image from The Malay Mail Online.
So in case you were really not keeping up with the news, a lot of these measures (along with POTA, SOSMA, etc) were taken due to fears of rising Islamic radicalism in Malaysia (aka “Terrorism”). We made a lot of comparisons to the US because it’s very hard to argue against the fact that the United States is pretty much the target of choice for terrorist groups:
“The US has an imperialist foreign policy which leads it into foreign intervention and direct conflict with the local resistance in a number of countries. The political nature of this conflict makes it a target for terrorist tactics because terrorism is traditionally favoured by groups resisting colonial interference.” – Shao Loong
However, Malaysia’s situation is actually quite different (warning – long explanation incoming):
“Malaysia has a completely different foreign policy situation. We have a long history of small numbers of Malaysians engaging in foreign struggles in places such as Afghanistan and Palestine. … We have tended to export trouble rather than import it, [which may lead to] a situation of ‘blowback’ that can come back to haunt us. Radicalized Malaysians who persue political violence overseas pose a risk to all Malaysians if they bring their politics back, like Muhammad Wanndy Jedi guy apparently sending his agents to commit acts of terror.
Malaysia is acting like it is facing the terror threat that the US faces. Our situation is different because we are not invading other countries. We need tackle the local contexts that promote political violence. To some extent, that is happening through limited deradicalization programs, but there appears to be more radicalization efforts going on. The armed response of the NSOF is actually directed at a very late stage of the problem, when people have already committed to the politics of violence. Prevention is better than (lethal) cure.” – Shao Loong
But what’s the worst that can happen? At least we’re prepared!
During the NSOF launch, PM Najib proudly stated:
“I understand this is the first time something like this has been formed. The only force in the world … we are the only government in the world who has created a force like this.” – PM Najib, as quoted by Channel News Asia.
And there’s a reason why that is, which you may have already picked up in an earlier point. But checks and balancesaside, the vagueness of what the NSOF actually does, coupled with the vague wording of the NSC Act itself puts a lot of power in the hands of one person, and despite assurances that there are “no intentions other than to protect the people,” we haven’t had a good track record of using these laws for their intended purpose since, despite assurance that SOSMA will not be used for political reasons, it was still used against an ex-UMNO leader and his lawyer who lodged police reports against PM Najib.
For super speculative scenarios of the long term effects, Shao Loong also brings up a really, really old example of what happened the last time a leader of a major world government started employing his own private force – the Praetorian Guard of the Ancient Roman Empire. Originally a squad of elite bodyguards for the Roman Emperor, they were also used as firefighters and Secret Police. The Praetorian Guard eventually became large and powerful enough to directly influence Roman politics, assassinating emperors and placing their own candidates on the throne while ignoring the protests of the Senate.