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August 1 , 2000

Sauk - a military/political assessment

We can freshly recall the sequence of events from the time the drama took place at the Kuala Rui military outpost, followed by the arms heist at Grik camp until the eventual surrender of the suspected perpetrators. My heartfelt condolences to the families of the late Mathew anak Medan and Sgt R Sagadevan who were killed in the operation.

A day after the arms heist, I thought the group would have crossed the border to South Thailand, ready to trade with arms buyers who would pay at least RM200,000 for the whole arsenal which would then be in the possession of either Abu Sayyaf, Acheh or Pulo group.

The road between Grik and Pengkalan Hulu (Kroh) has numerous tracks leading to South Thailand. It would take about 20 minutes to disappear from Malaysian territory and be out of Malaysian police and military detection.

However, this logical assessment proved to be all wrong. The mainstream media reported that a few days before and after the incident, the suspects were spotted by villagers in the vicinity of Bukit Jenalik and later, abandoned vehicles were found. Documents identifying the group with name lists were found in the vehicles - so, we were dealing with "amateurish criminals".

Talking about amateurs, Kapt Jamaludin Darus, a serving army officer who would have been in the army for at least 10 years couldn't possibly be an amateur. The training and exposure that he had would not allow him to agree to a choice of a tactically unsound defensive position like Bukit Jenalik because of the following:

1) Too near the main road;

2) Within sighting and hearing distance of villagers;

3) Easily accessible to police and military detection;

4) Easy for the police and military to conduct food and water denial operations, cordon and search as well as psychological operations, not to mention commando sniper deployment and raids;

5) No escape route for clean get-away or replenishment of food and water supply; and

6) Hastily prepared with no overhead protection from indirect fire weapons.

In addition to all these weaknesses, it was reported that most members of the group had no idea of how to handle the newly stolen "sophisticated" weapons. Rather surprising for a serving captain - at one moment, he brilliantly deceived the guards at the camp into surrendering their weapons and the next moment, he turned out to be a dumb fool!

It is even more surprising that no focus was made by the media about this captain - how and why he got involved and whether his wife was aware or not. A few seconds were focused on his wife who closed her door to reporters, refusing to answer any questions since she has been separated from him, it seems. It is not daily that we get news of a serving army officer of that rank becoming a criminal. The public would surely be curious as to why an officer of such an honourable rank and appointment, holding a commission bestowed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, resorts to crime with a "cult".

As expected, Mahathir zeroed in on PAS whom he said will justify the group's actions just like what happened at Memali in November 1985. Too bad the army had to be the boo-boys and Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak's reputation goes through a bad patch. A Kadir Jasin ("Other Thots", NST, July 9) was quick to condemn the generals and military system and in the same breath said, syabas to Pak Lah for "taking the bull by the horns", though it beats me what outstanding thing Pak Lah did.

I'm sure every reader has never heard of "Al-Ma'unah" before July 1. Suddenly it surfaced in a very ugly manner. Reportedly, the raiders came in three Pajeros with military tac signs.

But how can three Pajeros accommodate the whole arsenal of arms and ammunition (97 x M16 rifles, 2 x AUG steyr rifles, 4 x general purpose machine guns, 5 x M203 grenade launchers, 54 x flaretrip wires, 26 x bayonets, 5,000 rounds of ammunition and 40 x grenades) together with 15 men? Bad planning or bad imagination? At Bukit Jenalik, they fired a few rounds to test the weapons, giving their position away - as if the earlier activities were not enough.

If the captain was the military adviser, he has failed miserably. The mainstream media also failed to report how the group got the guards to open the armoury and ammunition dump (for readers' knowledge, weapons and ammunition are never stored together). Any army officer would know how the army and police would respond after a substantial amount of arms and ammunition were stolen - roadblocks, deployment of special branch personnel, cordon and search, food and water denial operations and commando raids.

Only an insane army officer will resort to this kind of crime. Even if he does, he would conduct thorough planning and "appreciation" - a military terminology which means "a logical sequence of thought deriving to the solution of a problem".

Mahathir then announced that these people are terrorists, hell-bent in overthrowing the represent government by forcing him and his cabinet to resign so that they can form an Islamic government.

Yet any army officer serving or retired, would know that a very detailed and deliberate tactical plan would have to be worked out in order to overthrow the Malaysian government by armed insurrection. Knowing the entire organisation of the armed forces and police with their weaponry, armaments, battleships and aircraft, how can a small deviationist group even harbour the dream of taking over the government after stealing arms and ammunition, not even enough to equip an infantry company? (An infantry company is a sub-unit of an infantry battalion, comprising about 130 men commanded by a major.)

The armed forces has been in existence for more than 60 years. They have served the nation so well and there is nothing wrong with the security system. There are many other problem areas relating to morale in the armed forces that need to be seriously addressed. Where is the military pride and moral courage?

Major X (Adapted from