By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
Although it took place over 51 years ago I could still vividly recall that day in May 1968 when we were assembled in the hall (Dewan Tun Templer) of the Royal Military College, Sungai Besi for an auspicious event – reciting of our pledge to serve King and Country.
There were 60 of us young Malaysians fresh from school ready to take on a very manly job to defend the honour and sanctity of our King and Country. And in doing so, we were prepared to sacrifice our lives. On the stage were the College Commandant, Colonel Jamil Ahmad, his deputy Major Lim and senior staff of the college who would bear witness to our testimony. They were resplendently dressed for the occasion in their working uniform, known as No. 3 Dress.
Everyone looked serious as it was not something to be taken lightly. Lives were at stake and, as youths in our late teens, we were taken in by the officious atmosphere. The insurgency warfare was still raging in the countryside. Soldiers and civilians were killed and maimed in areas where firefight was frequent.
Chin Peng and his merry men were still active giving the overstretched security forces a run for their money. During such critical moments, the loyalty and vulnerability of soldiers are tested and closely scrutinised lest they buckle under pressure. Thus the need for a pledge or an oath in upholding the country’s honour be declared loud and clear and in verbatim.
And the one thing that impressed me most, to this very day, was the absence of religion in the ceremony. There was no “doa selamat” like it is done today. No pious-looking “tuan guru” (religious teacher) to recite Quranic verses and, foremost, no fanfare. It was a simple recital led by an officer instructor raising his right palm and reading from a prepared note and we, the protagonists, repeating every word that he uttered.
It was over in a matter of minutes. The pledge was like a wake-up call. Suddenly we all felt a heavy load was deliberately lumped on our bare shoulders. The sense of responsibility was overwhelmingly felt by all and sundry. It was like being rudely shaken-up from a drunken stupor and, suddenly, we were thrust into the limelight to assume a role not meant for our frail bodies.
We served our time in the three services – army, navy and air force. Some went on to be colonels and generals while some left early to pursue alternative careers in the private sector. Two even landed piloting jobs with SIA and Cathay Pacific. Unfortunately, a few lost their lives killed in action with the insurgents. They did not die in vain and were bestowed gallantry medals and awards. God bless their souls.
Now fast-forward to September 2019. On Wednesday, September 11, police arrested 20 people in Penang on suspicion of being involved in the illegal issuance and sale of birth certificates and identity cards to foreigners. The following day, six men, including a Penang NRD assistant director, were charged in court on 32 counts relating to the offence.
On Friday, September 13, Inspector-General of Police Hamid Bador said several more Penang NRD staff would be detained for an investigation into the matter. NRD Director-General Ruslin Jusoh was told to give his full cooperation with investigators into the case.
Meantime, the National Registration Department wanted the police to investigate allegations that it had granted MyKad to Chinese nationals. A police report was lodged by the NRD chief to facilitate investigation into the matter.
Why my sudden interest in pledges made to defend the nation’s sovereignty by those responsible for its well-being? The answer is simple. The staff of NRD, like those in the Armed Forces, are being entrusted the responsibility of safeguarding the nation’s boundaries against intrusions by unwanted elements.
Intrusions go beyond physically intruding into our country through weak points along our borders on land, sea and air. Allowing foreigners, with a vested interest, to gain entry into our country via illegal means is an act of betrayal – a betrayal of trust. One’s loyalty to the country has been compromised. It is like selling your soul to the devil for a fee.
The motivating factor, of course, is money. While some are being tempted by money, others are being drawn by power and influence. But money has a bigger drawing power than anything else on this planet. That explains why former Prime Minister Najib Razak was at the centre of the 1MDB scandal that rocked the nation to its very foundation. Greed is the underlying factor and for someone holding the highest post in the country, such an act is simply unforgivable.
The National Registration Department plans to set up a DNA data bank and increase the monitoring of its staff, especially those holding sensitive posts. These are among the measures to be taken following the reported sale of birth certificates and identity cards. They are meant to plug holes within the department’s system.
My question is, how a government department, staffed almost entirely by Malay Muslims, could be hoodwinked into selling identity cards and birth certificates to foreigners?
Don’t the staff have a conscience? It is pointless to claim that the land belongs to “bumiputras” (sons of the soil) when the same people would sell their souls to the highest bidder at the drop of a hat. Like they say, fact is always stranger than fiction.
No Self-Glorification Please
Of late we at Ipoh Echo have been receiving briefs on events that are of little relevance to us as a community newspaper. These write-ups are nothing more than attempts at self-glorification. They have little or no news value.
While I don’t deny the need to emplace oneself on a differential platform, the writers should appreciate the objective of a community newspaper. It does not serve any particular person or people. It serves the community on the whole.
With that in mind, please refrain from submitting pieces with one’s name and appointment written in bold along with photographs with the writers’ images prominently portrayed.
Let’s treat Ipoh Echo as a community newspaper in the true sense of the word. That way, we will all gain in the long run.