KUALA LUMPUR – Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu today denied that he had belittled the capability of the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) with a remark at the 18th Asia Security Summit in Singapore recently.
“I have never belittled the capability of the Malaysian military. The nation’s defence capability and preparedness are at their best in facing various forms of threat, especially from the outside,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat.
Mohamad was replying to a question from Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim (BN-Arau) who had asked him to define what he meant when he said “we can’t fight them” in his speech at the conference.
Hassan Abdul Karim (PH-Pasir Gudang), in a supplementary question, asked whether Mohamad realised that his speech was seen as not only having portrayed the armed forces as weak but also as having jeopardised the morale of patriotic Malaysians.
Replying to the questions, Mohamad explained that he used the word “fight” to mean war because Malaysia clearly does not want to wage war with any country, especially the major powers.
“If we can opt for reconciliation, why choose war? If we show force, we will be eventually used. That’s why we prefer diplomacy because we want to avoid war,” he said.
Replying to a supplementary question from Shahidan, on the presence of China’s coast guard vessels in the country’s waters, including in the vicinity of Terumbu Layang-Layang and Beting Patinggi Ali, Mohamad said the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) conducts round-the-clock patrols.
The RMN always ensures that the country’s sovereignty in the maritime area is always preserved; it gathers defence and intelligence information in its area of responsibility and ensures that assets in the country’s maritime zone are protected from external threats, he said.
Besides, it also implements enforcement under the maritime laws such as the Fisheries Act and the Exclusive Economic Zone Act and maintains a presence and enhances the confidence of the maritime community, he said.
“Coast guard vessels of that country (China) sometimes pass by the islands where we have stationed our naval personnel. They do not interfere. We have very good diplomatic relations with China.
“If there is any interference, the matter will be resolved diplomatically. It may seem that we are giving in, but we just want to avoid getting into a conflict,” he said.
Mohamad also said that the Defence White Paper that will detail the MAF development needs over the next 10 years is expected to be tabled at the next session of Parliament.