There seem to be a craze among ministers, particularly those who holds the appointment as the Defence Minister and Deputy Defence Minister to adorn the military uniform at organised military functions. Why is there the need for such a minister to adorn the military uniform when he isn’t a military person? Or is it his rightful duty as the Defence Minister and the Deputy Defence Minsiter to be dressed in military uniform when attending organized military activity, such as a parade, witnessing military exercises or visiting military bases?
If one were to look at the practices of the Defence Ministers of the Commonwealth countries, one will notice that the scene of the Defence Minister, or even the Prime Minister wearing a military uniform at military function is not visible at all. This isn’t the case in Malaysia. Take the case of the US President where by virture of his appointment is also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. But do you see him wearing a General’s uniform when he reviews parades; does a tour at military bases and visits troops in combat? Certainly not that I have seen?
We even had a minister who had undergone basic military training as a volunteer gets promoted to the rank of Brigadier General without going to the various stages in rank, whereas regular military officers takes years of courses and training to get to that rank.
Malaysia has some unusual practices where a minister is not only a minister, but also thinks that as a minister, he is also the boss of a ministry and including all departments within the ministry.
Take the Defence Ministry for instance. There have been a number of occasions where statements made by the minister sounded very much like he is issuing out orders to a subordinate military commander. He also talks about the deployment of military assets and resources, and that certainly isn’t his responsibility to talk about. I wonder if the military commanders took notice of this and caution the minister to understand the limits of what he can say and cannot say, especially on matters relating to operations.
The next issue is about hand kissing of ministers hands by senior police officers. To this, there have been a number of photos that went viral on Whatsapp showing senior police officers kissing the hands of a minister and also the Prime Minister. I find this unusual and funny. I do not know whether this practice is permissible in the police force and has been taught during training. Certainly, I say that such a practice is unusual, and is certainly not the practice in other police forces of the world; certainly not among the police forces of the Commonwealth.
My only hope is to see that this practice of kissing the hands of ministers and other ‘big shot’ does not become the habit of senior military officers. We salute, and that is the only way we know to accord respect to people who deserve to be given the salute.