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Thursday, February 28, 2013

The war for military votes



SEVERAL more retired armed forces "big wigs" are said to be joining Pakatan Rakyat anytime soon. This however cannot be independently verified.
But what we do know is that the four retired high-ranking officers who joined PKR recently are already hitting the ceramah circuit with "guns blazing"(pardon the expression) against what they say are "irregularities, corruption and abuse of power of the BN regime".
 
The four are Datuk Abdul Ghafir Abdul Hamid, Datuk Abdul Hadi Abdul Khatab, Datuk Najmi Ahmad and Imran Abdul Hamid – ranked from General to Lt General to Admiral. All had held high and important posts when serving the forces.
 
The main target group is definitely the men and women of the Malaysian Armed Forces. There are some 161,000 personnel and spouses eligible to vote in the upcoming general election. Add that to the number of retired personnel, we'll have a massive figure to say the least. And don't forget the spouses.
 
The four retired generals are attracting attention. So far. Take the ceramah held in Keramat Wangsa in Kuala Lumpur a couple of weeks ago. It was well attended.
 
A strategist closely linked to the Umno president's office put the crowd at "around 3,000". He had gone to the ceramah "to see and study the situation".
 
So what were his "observations"? One was "the four generals are not whole-heartedly with Anwar – more of personal issues with the government and the BN leadership". Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was present at the ceramah.
 
 "Of the four generals, three are more Islam centric. They should be at PAS ceramah, not PKR. Wrong place," said the Umno strategist. Except for Abdul Hadi Khatab, the other three donned kopiah and were attired like PAS leaders.
 
The strategist went on to say "ceramah did not have much traction in the area. Mostly outsiders came but not many non-Malays attended. Maintain same issues, Scorpene, missing jet engines etc, no meat."
 
The venue for the ceramah was in the vicinity, so to speak of Mindef and a military camp. Obviously meeting the "criteria of the Pakatan's target group". What more, the issues brought up – Scorpene, jet engines are all said to be close to the heart of armed forces personnel".
 
The strategist was right that many outsiders came, considering there were armed forces personnel in the crowd. Chances are they had come from the nearby military quarters and Mindef.
 
And as admitted by the Umno strategist "they were overawed by the presence of Najmi Ahmad". Najmi was former director for the armed forces religious corp or Kagat and brother of PAS leader-turned-Umno man Datuk Nakhaie Ahmad. "Najmi... yes, he might be a little bit of problem," said the Umno strategist.
 
But said the Umno strategist, of the four generals "Abdul Hadi Khatab is the fiercest but lacks oratory skills and is repetitive in his arguments. He said he will reveal all after the election. What for? Reveal now if he really has the facts. Talk rubbish."
 
Abdul Hadi Khatab had promised to expose more "scandals in the armed forces" after the election "so that action can be taken". His supporters believed he was talking in the context of Pakatan coming into power after the election.
 
However, flyers alleging Abdul Hadi Khatab's "involvement" in the missing jet engine issue have been widely distributed. But the retired general countered by saying "all these allegations came only after I joined PKR".
 
To a retired army major, "Umno/BN are very worried with this development."
 
He claimed the authorities "tried to stop soldiers from attending the ceramah in Keramat Wangsa by having RANGKON or rancangan kontigensi". The so-called contingency plan was said to be activities which personnel must take part in.
 
He wants the generals to continue "exposing big issues which had affected the welfare of serving as well as retired personnel" and "ceramah must be held near camps and make sure the camp dwellers get what were brought up at the ceramah".
 
The question is whether there is any effect on serving members of ATM?
 
"Serving members are worried who they pangkah (cross, meaning vote) because they know whoever they voted for will be checked by certain authorities in Mindef. Soldiers being soldiers do what is told with no question asked until they are free from service," said the retired major.
 
He himself claimed was never given the opportunity to vote in the years he served the forces. The retired major did not "go public" with his allegation for "lack of evidence".
 
But for years we have heard of allegations of armed forces personnel "being told who to vote for" or them "not free to vote candidates of their own choice".
 
In fact, two years ago four ex-military personnel went public alleging they were ordered by their commanding officers to mark postal votes for hundreds and thousands of personnel who were out in the field. There were other personnel and other allegations. The "perception" is such votes "were used to help BN candidates win".
 
The authorities have denied all alleged wrongdoings. But the allegations persist till this day. The opposition has always taken a stand that the allegations are true.
So assuming they are true, wouldn't this aggressive exercise to win votes of serving personnel be "futile"?
 
"If the soldiers are willing to take risks and there is no interference from their superior, I'd say 80% will vote for Pakatan. I believe our soldiers will wake up." So said the retired major.
 
In short, the strategy is to "prick the conscience" of serving personnel to join the "bekas perajurit" and vote for Pakatan.
 
But there are ex-military associations who are pro-BN and support the government of the day. There are many.
 
But at least one, in their eagerness to show their support, had brought embarrassment to the BN. The butt-wiggling performers in front of the residence of the Bersih chairperson were from one of them.
 
Despite the presence of pro-BN veterans, the anti-BN ones seem to grow and getting more vocal. Perception or reality? What's Mindef take on all this?
 
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi did not want to comment, save to say via text "Mindef will issue a press release".
 
In the meantime, the war for the military votes on both sides of the political divide continues.
 

The Writest Thing: Mohsin Abdullah
Mohsin Abdullah likes rojak. And nasi campur. And durians. Perhaps that’s why he writes about this, that and everything else. Pretty much rojak and nasi campur. As for his writings, well, they can be like durians. Aromatic and delicious to some people, smelly and off-putting to others. 
- See more at: http://fz.com/content/war-military-votes#sthash.85rPplsf.dpuf

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