The Askar Wataniah has it all (to foster patriotism, discipline and enhance skills) and unlike later schemes which have made a few people very wealthy, it is entirely authentic, rooted in history and run by the most professional institution in our country: our armed forces.
A LEECH fell onto my neck, but thankfully I managed to remove it before it began corkscrewing its way into my skin.
This was Monday morning, and I was on my way to witness the final attack by the soldiers of Rejimen 508 Askar Wataniah on the mock communist terrorists in the jungle near Kampung Mungkal in Rembau.
The synchronised mortar and gunfire, finally executed after days of reconnaissance and planning, belied the serenity of the night before, which I had spent in a hammock (fully netted and enhanced with a variety of anti-insect sprays) as a tributary of the Rembau River gushed past metres away, carrying its heavy brown alluvium after an afternoon storm.
This rendered the bathing area (“jacuzzi”) unusable for the evening. A pack of anti-bacterial wipes had to suffice. “I suppose it’s cleaner than the river,” remarked the honorary Lieutenant-Colonel.
This raid was the culmination of the regiment’s annual training programme that began on Nov 17 with an opening parade at the regiment’s home camp in Seremban.
They then moved to the Royal Armoured Corps (KAD) camp in Port Dickson, where the exercises began – but not before a trip to the museum.
I joined them a few days later in the port town where in 1933 the Experimental Company that became the Royal Malay Regiment was formed.
Dinner with the officers was followed by an evening of karaoke and conversation, which revealed the diverse background of the volunteers: amongst the men and women of different ethnic backgrounds were teachers, lawyers and even former regular soldiers.
The next morning a shooting competition was held between teams representing the various battalions, with honorary officers such as myself forming an additional team.
As the band of the KAD rehearsed their military marches on the neighbouring field, the syncopated percussion of our M16s got us to the respectable semi-final stage of the falling plate competition.
After the shooting exercises, the regiment moved to the jungle to set up for the main highlight of the training: the attack on the “communists”.
Prior to my arrival on Sunday, the enemy had conducted an ambush at 0200 hours the night before.
Though the lack of sleep was palpable throughout the ranks when I visited them, the soldiers were on patrol throughout the day as usual, relying on the river for drinking and bathing, cooking in their mess tins and enduring continuous rain with only a sheet for shelter in their camps.
The information gathered by the patrol teams fed into the tactical planning that required the construction of a 3D map formed out of coloured sand and little sticks to represent fences and gates – one of the many practices we inherited from the British military.
This was used to great effect by the officer in command when he issued orders to the platoon leaders the night before the final attack, augmented by advice from senior officers from other corps.
Just prior to the final attack the Panglima 1 Briged and Mentri Besar joined us.
At a press conference a journalist asked the latter about the Peaceful Assembly Bill. In case she turned to me next, I was preparing to say “please refer to my column in The Star last week”.
Instead there was a question about football, and I wondered if journalists are always so impolite to the hosts, who reasonably expect that press conferences are mainly about the event at hand.
The attack itself was a joy to witness. Soldiers crawled, ducked and ran amidst an aural and visual cacophony, with coloured smoke released to signal pre-determined battlefield operations. The communists were trounced all too quickly.
Following the successful action, the soldiers formed a parade, sang the regimental song and then witnessed the elevation of two officers.
As the annual training exercise came to a close, the skies opened up.
As I trekked back to headquarters, drenched, I wondered about the need for so many government programmes to foster patriotism, discipline and enhance skills.
The Askar Wataniah has it all, and unlike later schemes which have made a few people very wealthy, it is entirely authentic, rooted in history and run by the most professional institution in our country: our armed forces.
My thanks go to Brigadier General Datuk Mohd Shahrom Mohamad and all the officers for accommodating me.
As I took out my BlackBerry – which had enjoyed better coverage in the jungle than some parts of the Klang Valley – to dry, another leech attempted to drink me.
It was obvious that the ones in the jungle are not discriminatory in whose blood they suck, unlike those which inhabit the corridors of power, some of whom made it to PWTC this week.
> Major (Hon) Tunku ’Abidin Muhriz is president of IDEAS.
KUALA LUMPUR: President of Ideas Tunku 'Abidin Muhriz apologised Friday for remarks he had made in his article that was published in the column Roaming Beyond the Fence.
“I would like to apologise for the misunderstanding caused by my comment pertaining to leeches at PWTC this week.
“Although I clearly restricted the analogy to “some” individuals, several quarters have interpreted my comment as applying to all those participating in the Umno General Assembly. This is most unfortunate.
“Anyone who has been reading my articles over the past three years will know that I admire and deeply respect many Umno leaders,” Tunku Abidin said in a statement.
He was criticised at the Umno general assembly for implying that some of the delegates were leeches
“So, when I implied that leeches had penetrated the party, it was out of a sense of disappointment, not of an intrinsic hatred of the party, as has been suggested.”
Tunku Abidin pointed out that he had deep respect for Umno leaders like Datuk Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn
“Most recently, I have consistently praised the efforts of Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah in fighting for further democracy and freedom for all Malaysians.
“Furthermore, I have been consistent in congratulating the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for his courageous attempts to reform the country under the Government Transformation Programme and Economic Transformation Programme.”
Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin welcomed Tunku Abidin's apology as well as the clarification on his stand.
“It was not fair of him to make a generalised statement against Umno,” said the Rembau MP.