Monday, 19 January 2015

No Way to Treat a Hero

Sin Chew Jit Poh
14 January 2015

Major Zaidi Ahmad is a bona fide hero. He served in war torn Bosnia; saved the life of a colleague and served his nation with distinction for over two decades. He also served the nation in a non-military way. In the last general election, when he found out that the so called indelible ink was in fact washable, he made a police report and reportedly he told the press about it too.

This was a good thing to do. If the indelible ink was washable, then the security it was supposed to provide against multiple voting then becomes illusory. This will then lead to serious doubts about the validity of our elections, as well as the honesty of the authorities which said the ink was indelible. These are serious issues and they are of great public interest.

For this service to the nation, Major Zaidi has been court martialed and his punishment is dismissal from the Air Force. I suppose it could have been worse, he could have been put in jail and the Military Court said that the sentence reflects his excellent service record.

I am not familiar with Military law, nor am I familiar with military attitudes, culture and traditions, so I can’t tell if what happened to Major Zaidi is acceptable amongst his brothers and sisters in arms. However as a civilian, I can’t but help feeling distraught that a civically conscious man has lost his career because he has a conscience and because he cares about democracy in this country.

According to the judge, Major Zaidi is being punished because he made a statement to the press without permission. I realise of course that discipline in the military is of extreme importance. But I wonder, surely the nature of the “disobedience” ought to be taken into consideration.

Major Zaidi’s comment about the indelible ink has nothing to do with military matters or security matters in general. The issue is one of importance to all people in the country and it is a serious issue. At the end of the day, the armed forces are there to protect the nation. Surely one of the things it is meant to protect as well are the values of the nation. Is not democracy one of those national values?

I grant that Military law is harsher than civilian law and it has its own ethical systems. Perhaps the judges in the Court Martial had no choice but to punish Major Zaidi. I just find it impossible to accept that his punishment is so harsh when considering that what he did was in no way disloyal to the nation. In fact the opposite is true, what he did was to show great concern for the nation. It just seems to be a shoddy way to treat a Malaysian hero.

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