An abridged version of this article was reprinted in the Straits Times on 10 Dec 2009 as “Not Just a Concept But a Living Truth.”
Unfortunately, that version dropped the author’s comments on Malaysia’s version of Total Defence, Hanruh, and what ought to be done about it, instead focusing on what Singapore had done right with its Total Defence agenda.
This is the full version of Azmi Hassan’s Op-Ed as it originally appeared in Utusan Malaysia.
By AZMI HASSAN
IT is indeed unfair to compare the defence system between Malaysia and Singapore because both have a different defence doctrines. Not only is the doctrine different, but also the defence allocation.
It cannot be denied that the military assets owned by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is desired not only by Malaysia, but also other countries which are more developed and richer than Singapore.
What is displayed by the SAF at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2009 (Lima 2009) is a clear manifestation of the difference in doctrine and allocation between Singapore and Malaysia.
But, what is more important is that the Singapore government is allowed to allocate up to six per cent of its Gross National Product for defence expenditure and it is not surprising that over the years, SAF has been getting a lucrative development allocation.
Unlike the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM), what is obtained is only a small percentage of the SAF allocation.
That is why, it is not a surprise when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that the government would look into its financial capability before making any decision on the purchase of new assets to enhance the capabilities of the country’s defence , including helicopters to replace the Nuri.
It is nor surprising because ATM’s defence allocation, as explained by the Prime Minister, has to be in tandem with social economic development.
This makes the Singaporeans confident of their country’s security, defence and sovereignty, and if translated ina different perception, the self-identity of the Singaporeans is strong for a country with an area of 648 sq km and surrounded by bigger neighbours.
Unlike the general believe, the strong self-identity of the Singaporeans does not depend solely on the grand defence system of the SAF, but more on the comprehensive involvement of its people in matters pertaining to economy, social, politics, security or defence.
One thing attractive about the defence concept adopted by Singapore is how each issues confronting them is instilled in the minds of its people as issues and challenges to their defence and sovereignty.
The concept seems successful because the message to the people is for them to always be prepared is very effective.
This strategy adopted by Singapore since 1984 is contained in the defence concept known as total defence or Pertahanan Menyeluruh.
In fact , Pertahanan Menyeluruh is celebrated every year on Feb 15 to remind the people to always be prepared to face challenges.
It is not surprising when the Singapore people regarded the issue of water supply with Malaysia as an issue affecting their country’s defence and sovereignty because that is the strategy adopted by the concept of total defence. This is different from Malaysians who look at the water issue on a commercial platform, that is to obtain justice in deciding the price rate if water.
In fact, it is not extreme to predict that should there be issues involving Malaysia or other neighbours, the perception of the Singapore people is that they are related to their country’s defence and sovereignty.
Malaysia also has its own total defence concept which is known as “Hanruh”, introduced in 1986. Although it has existed for more than two decades, majority of the Malaysians are still not familiar with Hanruh because the strategy has never been put into practice.
In principle Malaysian’s Hanruh consists of five components – national vigilance, solidarity and unity of the community, public vigilance, economic fortitude and psychological resilience.
Although the Hanruh strategy is not practised directly among Malaysians, but indirectly, the concept is found in courses organised by the National Civics Bureau (BTN).
It is saddening that of late, there have been claims that the BTN courses could create racial disintegration among Malaysians.
DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang has called for the BTN to be closed on grounds that it is responsible for the building of a united Malaysians.
In this matter, it is a relief when Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz said that the Cabinet has decided to revamp the BTN course curriculum.
It is not important whether the decision by the Cabinet is made earlier or because of pressure, but is is critical that the curriculum for BTN courses be revamped to portray the concept of 1Malaysia.
But, a new problem may surface because there will be accusation by the same people that the new curriculum is more of a propaganda by the Barisan Nasional government because there are certain groups who simply do not want to understand the concept of 1Malaysia.
It is better if the revamp encompasses the five components in Hanruh because then there willnot be any accusations that the BTN courses are tools to promote the Barisan Nasional political agenda.
BTN which has an organisational structure and experience, having been set up in 1974, is seen as the best approach to instil the concept of total defence, not only among civil servants and university students, but also Malaysians in general.
With the huge allocation for BTN (RM74 million for 2010), for certain the programme to encompass all the five components in Hanruh for Malaysians could be implemented without any hitches.
The new BTN component ned not necessarily follow the Singaporean’s total defence concept because the republic has a different agenda with Malaysia.
Although Malaysia is not confronted with critical security or defence problems, the concept is actually more effective if implemented during peaceful time than during emergency.
The time has come for the country to implement Hanruh through BTN, Otherwise it will be a loss to the country.
The writer is a Geostrategist Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Visiting Fellow at ISIS Malaysia.