There is a quote from the great WWII General George Patton Sr. It says:
"Follow me, lead me, or get the hell out of way."In the military, one take order or give order and there is no other way. Every order or procedure should be adhered to. No question ask.
Military expect discipline on all under command. There is no room to loosen on discipline. Discipline is everything and the chain of command have no leeway for dissent. Not even saying what is right. That is democrasy in public life.
The military is to defend and preserve our democrasy, but it does not operate on democratic principle. Or, it will put the military organisation in disarray.
PAS supporting former Major Zaidi Ahmad was dismissed by the millitary court. Although what he said maybe politically relevant in civilian life, he had breached military order.
Thus, attempt by Bersih 2.0 to politicise his dismissal by the military court is irresponsible.
In the bigger millitary perspective, it could jeopardise our national security. Blogger Captain Seademon explained in his latest posting here.
He reminded of two important quotes in the military - "Loose Talk Could Sink This Ship” and “The Walls Have Ears”. In the 1970s, at the height of the Second Emergency, soldiers got killed after wives talked eagerly in public about the husbands going for operations against communist terrorists.
In one case, a wife employed as a typist at one military establishment was found to have mailed carbon papers of each important military correspondence to the intelligence service of a neighbouring country till she was arrested.
In the late 1980s, 10 officers and men of the Armed Forces were nabbed by military intelligence for selling strategic defence files to the intelligence agencies of a neighbouring country. A sum of USD96,000 was paid for a document on contingency defence plans of a particular state.
Captain Seademon said there are proper channel to air one's grouses in the military.
"Your quarters is leaking, you complain to the Facilities Officer. Your mess food sucks, you complain to the Mess Messing Member... " And, "your senior officer has wronged you, the Armed Forces Act, 1972 allows you to seek redress of wrong."
"Your indelible ink wears off your finger in less than a day, you complain to the Officer Commanding the Administration Branch. Better still, if it is on the same day of voting, you complain to the Elections Commission officers at your place of voting."
An Armed Forces member is not a civilian. It means that you "come from a highly disciplined institution that lives by its codes of rules, regulations, standing orders and orders."
Captain Seademon acknowledged Zaidi as a good officer, until the day he appeared in the photo above. He was his junior by two intakes; a good pilot; a quiet man; "well-mannered, and according to those who know him, it was no secret that he is a staunch supporter of PAS".
In the military, there is no room for preference to any political party. They are free to vote, but "they should remain apolitical in their conduct".
An order is an order
While Zaidi had good intention to comment on the indelible ink, Captain Seademon explained he went against the Armed Forces Council’s Order No. 13 of 1960."
"As a member of the Armed Forces, you are not to talk to the media unless you have prior clearance from the Public Relations Office at both the Air Force HQ and the Ministry of Defence. You might be subjected to unguided and mischievous questions and you might answer wrongly. You might give away more than you should, as the information you are privy to may cause harm to the defence of the nation if leaked whether intentionally or unintentionally."
After the episode above, he was investigated and transferred to a lesser sensitive post pending investigation. A transfer is normal when one is under investigation. Policemen under investigation are always transferred to “desk” duties. The same applied to Zaidi.
However, perhaps for political reasons, Zaidi decided to show the signal to journalists who do not have the necessary security clearance to be privy to the information on the signal.
A transfer order could hardly detrimental to national security of the nation, but the act of showing any document to those unauthorised to view it has serious implication. He posed to question what else could a defiant commanding Officer of a fighter squadron, could and would reveal to unauthorised people. Is the risk similar to the two cases mentioned earlier?
To Captain Seademon, it "shows how this senior officer’s conduct was very unbecoming, and is not trustworthy to be looking after the nation’s defence. Zaidi even sent out an SMS in the form of a political incitement; definitely unbecoming of a senior officer of the Armed Forces."
Punishment too lenient?
Was the punishment of being discharged from His Majesty’s service received by Zaidi harsh?
Captain Seademon's answer is no. Zaidi was a senior officer and a Commanding Officer, not a less-educated Private or Airman. But he was charged under Section 50 (2) and Section 51 of the Armed Forces Act, 1972, for disobedience to superior officer and disobedience to standing orders."
The section reads:
Every person subject to service law under this Act who, whether wilfully or through neglect, disobeys any lawful command of his superior officer/standing orders shall, on conviction by court-martial, be liable to imprisonment or any less punishment provided by this Act.The scale of punishments for an Officer of the Armed Forces prescribed by the Armed Forces Act, 1972, can be found in Section 89 (2) of the Act. They are:
1. Death,In the case of Zaidi’s, the gravity of his offences and his rank and position make only the first four punishments applicable to him.
2. Imprisonment to a term not exceeding 14 years,
3. Dismissal with disgrace from His Majesty’s service,
4. Dismissal from His Majesty’s service,
5. Forfeiture of seniority of rank,
6. Dismissal of an officer from the ship he belongs to,
8. Severe reprimand,
10. In the occasion of expense, damage, or loss, stoppages.
Since death punishment is out of the question, the members of the Court-Martial chose the least: dismissal from His Majesty’s service, meaning that he is still entitled to his benefits. It is not harsh and fairly lenient.
Zaidi's "political beliefs led him to do what every officer and man of His Majesty’s Armed Forces should not do: disobey orders and putting the uniform you wear to shame."
Zaidi will soon be a political celebrity, or as Captain Seademon described a donkey in politics. He will be part of a circus act and may earn something from the collection made from the spectators of the nightly circus shows he will be performing in, all in the misguided name of justice.
After the next general elections is over, he should find himself a steady job because once used, any politician would just move on and he will be left like a discarded tissue.