Defence Minister Hishamuddin Hussein had on Monday 14th August announced the formation of the Anti Terrorism Readiness Troop comprising of 32 officers and 427 other ranks (made up of personals from various army units), in readiness to deal with terrorist threats during the 29th SEA Games to be held in Kuala Lumpur, with its main sporting events starting 16 August till 30 August.
Hishamuddin announced that the Anti Terrorism Readiness Troop will be based at military camps around Kuala Lumpur i.e. Sg. Besi Army Camp, Wardieburn Camp and Batu Cantonment Camp.
When the announcement was made, I recalled an Open Letter that I wrote to the Defence Minister that was featured in my Facebook, questioning the proposed sale of Batu Cantoment Camp to Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera. The Deputy Defence Minister was asked a similar question by a reporter some days later, and his answer was that Batu Cantonment Camp was no longer suitable (tidak sesuai ). He however did not explained what he meant by “tidak sesuai ”. As of today, we do not know the fate of Batu Cantonment Camp, a camp that was build during the colonial era and harbour lots of memories for those officers and soldiers that had lived or worked in the camp.
When Hishamuddin announced that the Anti Terrorism Readiness Troop would be based at military camps around Kuala Lumpur, I wondered if he had realized that the camps would be designated as concentration area for troops on standby for critical tasks, such as providing security during the period of the SEA Games. If Hishamuddin had realized the importance of these camps for the aforesaid reason, then I think the Defence Ministry would not have considered selling off Batu Cantonment Camp. I now believe that it was sheer ignorance of our political masters, and the silence of our military commanders that resulted in military camps sited in Kuala Lumpur be sold off.
I had raised a similar argument in defending the need to retain the RMAF Base Sg. Besi that has now been sold off, some years ago. To me the RMAF Base Sg. Besi has a ‘strategic value’ should the capital city of Kuala Lumpur be confronted with a military threat. I do not want to discuss what I mean by ‘strategic value’ here, but suffice to say that the RMAF Base Sg. Besi can be utilized for the insertion of a Quick Reaction Force that can be air landed by STOL aircraft, or an Airborne Force that can be parachuted into the base. Now that capability is lost with the sale of RMAF Base Sg. Besi. Was such consideration taken into account when the government decided to sell of the base? Were the military commanders consulted? I think not. I think the sale of such priced property was solely motivated by money.
I do not know what other military camps in Kuala Lumpur will be up for sale. Will Wardieburn Camp, Genting Camp, Sg. Besi Army Camp, and the entire piece of land that is home for the Royal Military College and the National Defence University be the victim of a grand land sale by the Defence Ministry in the future?