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Saturday, September 30, 2023

'Malbatt - Misi Bakara' not 90pct factual as claimed


After reviewing the film titled ‘Malbatt - Misi Bakara’ which purports to be 90 percent factual, we have come to the conclusion that it is not so.

Several of the scenes are in fact erroneous and embarrassing to the reputation of the Malaysian peacekeeping force Malbatt 1.

Some of the episodes did not occur in real life during the operation to rescue the 70 trapped US Rangers in the Bakara Market area on the night of Oct 3, 1993.

As the then Malbatt 1 commander and deputy commander, we were in direct contact with our men on the ground especially the troops operating the APC Condor vehicles en route to Bakara Market, Mogadishu, Somalia.

We thus had a full grasp of the events and happenings that took place from the beginning to the successful completion of the rescue mission.

The episode in the opening act at the introduction to the film shows what was presumably the rescue of a group of CNN journalists huddled in a room depicting our soldiers bravely moving in with lots of shooting and exchanging of gunfire with the militia rebels of self-styled leader General Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

Scene from Malbatt: Misi Bakara

In actual fact, no sniper was deployed, no hand grenades were lobbed, none of our men got blown off either by a booby trap or mine, and there was no casualty on our side. Neither did we have a Somali interpreter negotiating with the militia.

A dramatic scene depicting a Somali interpreter purportedly in Malbatt’s employ is central to the film storyline.

The interpreter by the name of Abdelle had to sacrifice his wife and son to the street attack by the militias who rained rapid gunshots at them. All because he sheltered our troops during the operation at his house.

This episode is nonsensical. No Somali interpreter was ever involved during the Bakara rescue mission. It is absurd for Malbatt to engage a local Somali in a military/Malbatt operation.

The portrayal of Abdelle in this film is fictitious, made dramatic to add flavour to the story. This is regrettable.

Soldiers leering scene false

A scene in this film shows a white reporter visiting our Malbatt 1 camp looking disappointed at not being able to meet and interview an officer, simultaneously depicting two of our Malbatt soldiers looking on foolishly and leeringly at her.

Suddenly, an explosion and shootings broke out in the background. The two soldiers reacted by pushing her down to the ground with one of them having his arm around her back shoulders.

This incident never occurred. It’s foolhardy. This journalist appeared again in another scene at the end of the film in a flirtatious gesture.

It must be noted that all Malbatt 1 officers and men are highly disciplined and morally upright, especially when we serve in UN peacekeeping missions.

No nonsense. Nobody from the outside is allowed to enter the camp freely and unescorted. The commander is always alerted.

This intrusion by the foreign journalist is a mere travesty. Those officers and men of Malbatt 1 still around today would feel disgusted by this fake episode showing the undisciplined and lack of professionalism of our soldiers.

Scenes showing an officer in an APC moving towards the objective, nonchalantly whistling a Western tune while the rest of his crew looked apprehensively, and that of a Malbatt soldier blaring out abusively at US soldiers, “bodoh dan bangang” (stupid and idiotic), were just untrue, trying to depict the negative traits of our soldiers.

Scene from Malbatt: Misi Bakara

Dog tag kissing did not happen

Another scene depicting our soldiers in an APC kissing his dog tag/identity disc is dubious by a Muslim soldier, giving a questionable connotation.

The act of kissing a dog tag for some kind of blessing is tantamount to a blasphemous doing. Our soldiers are certainly not taught to kiss their dog tags when going on a mission.

It’s alright if the scene depicts a soldier being a Christian kissing his cross in prayer. Showing it in the film could label a Muslim soldier as ungodly (fasik).

Another scene shows one of our soldiers signalling to the Americans to follow him to a safer area in the streets of Bakara Market, stating he was familiar with the area.

This episode is not true since Malbatt 1 and other peace-keeping troops serving under the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (Unosom II) were not allowed to enter the area by the order of Force Headquarters. The Bakara Market vicinity was out of bounds to all troops.

The portrayal of Colonel Rahman as a boisterous loudmouth Malbatt commander, yelling at an officer under him, is another negative portrayal bordering on character assassination of the then-real commander, Colonel Abdul Latif Ahmad.

Scene from Malbatt: Misi Bakara

The latter served as a diplomat in his career - military attache at the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore.

Highly regrettable dramatisation

What’s more, it is a fact that the statement, “This operation is a suicidal mission” was never uttered by a Malbatt 1 officer.

Officers and men of Malbatt 1 were professionals, uprightly trained and disciplined. There existed a strong bond of trust and comradeship without having to be blatant and abusive.

The depiction of this scene is highly regrettable, especially so when it never really happened that way at Malbatt 1 tactical headquarters in Mogadishu back in 1993.

Finally, a scene at Malbatt 1 tactical headquarters showing officers shaking hands with the commander on the successful completion of the rescue mission is also untrue.

Scene from Malbatt: Misi Bakara

It was an emotional moment when we lost one life - Corporal Mat Aznan Awang - and nine soldiers were injured. On the ranks of the American troops and Pakistani soldiers, there were also deaths and casualties. How could we ‘celebrate’ during an emotional occasion?

It is great to produce a highly dramatic film showing acts of patriotism by our troops in action, earning high respect from UN allied commanders for our contribution to the peacekeeping expectations in Somalia some 30 years ago.

And to do so makes our viewers feel proud of being Malaysians. But it should not have been overblown to make it a blockbuster movie. We have our reservations.

We wish to emphasise again that most scenes and episodes which were shown in the film were not “90 percent accurate and factual” as publicised. - Mkini

ABDUL LATIF AHMAD is a retired brigadier-general and former commander Malbatt 1, Unosom II, 1993.

MOHD ROZI BAHAROM is a retired major-general and former deputy commander Malbatt 1, Unosom II, 1993.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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