14 January 2015

Je Ne Suis Pas Major Zaidi

I knew Major Zaidi as an unassuming young officer in Butterworth. I used to see him pop into the bar at the officers' mess to tapau chilled canned drinks on his way between places. Prior my event with the then Major Fajim Juffa, pilots not from my generation, more so the post-communism era fighter jocks, would not give me a second glance save to ascertain if I was worth being ragged, and upon perceiving my grey hair, would quickly move quietly on with their business. With the sight of the squadron insignia of a helicopter pilot on my flying suit sleeve, the fighter boys deemed me beneath worthiness of a conversation.
 
I therefore do not know enough about Major Zaidi to say anything enlightening about the unwarranted glare of the public eye his court martial has garnered. I cannot fathom what brought matters this far dragged out into the distance. It should not have happened, not to a fellow officer. And no longer being in service, I should not know. It is always a sad event when an officer, especially one whose rank would make him an Executive Officer of the squadron, a potential squadron commander and eligible for the rank of Leftenant Colonel in his youth when we chopper boys past our prime are trying to assassinate each other for that same rank, is faced with a court martial.
 
A court martial is a sign of shit having hit the fan. Either what was a minor offense was not met with admission of guilt on the part of the accused and he elected to prove a point via a court martial, or the offense was of such gravity that no summary dealing via trial by subordinate commander is allowed, so that sweeping the dust under the carpet cannot happen.
 
I am horrified to see that everyone on fb and the alternative media portals have resounded in such an obscene baying over how it is a crime to tell the truth in Malaysia because it will make you a victim of a corrupt government. If you really want to call a spade a spade, then what earth-shaking, ground-breaking or life-altering "truth" is it that Major Zaidi brought to the table that had not already been known and debated to death other than for getting a Division 1 military officer to flog this indelible ink dead horse? The self-righteous alternative media portray Major Zaidi as the hero that the country needs, and that we should all stand by him. In clich├ęd cyber trending, fb profile pictures now have been changed to bear the banner that reads Je Suis Major Zaidi. Yet, every rebuttal I have placed in alternative media to straighten the lopsided picture frames has not been published. Not that it matters to me, but it is telling about their selective treatment of how some truths are more truthful than others.
 
However, this is not about Major Zaidi. It is about ignoring the relevant items which would nullify the governmental-injustice-poster-boy aura that has been conjured to legitimise what in fact is little more than a red herring. It concerns the politicising of a court martial, which does not fall under the normal rules that civilians assume to understand. The vitriol splashed upon the pages of the alternative news portals has little to do with concern over injustice. Rather, it is the manifestation of a mass hysterical fist-shaking at the military establishment which is perceived, but not verified in any way, as being an extension of a government we feel, for whatever reason we breed and fester, as ill-deserving of the mandate to rule, corrupt to the core and impervious to whatever criticism we hurl at it.
 
The rules as of 31 years ago when I signed up for service were made clear, that under no circumstance could I organise a press conference. Were I standing at a terrorist attack site while shopping and accosted by the paparazzi for comment, I would be liable to be charged for contravening Armed Forces Council Instructions for not clearing with MINDEF PR before opening my opinionated mouth, though I believe circumstantially nobody in the armed forces would do it. But the rule still stands, even if I weren't prosecuted.
 
Now this is altogether several shades different from organising a press conference to air one's convictions over a perceived miscarriage of justice. This takes knowing full well what the rules say. It takes a subsequent electing to disregard those rules, for whatever reason. It also means either taking cognisance that there will be repercussions and being ready for those consequences, or worse, presuming that such consequences will die a natural death before their reverberations are audible.
 
A soldier cannot have an amnesiac lapse towards the principle of service before self. The military will not tolerate it any more than it will tolerate insubordination. Courts martial of the past dealing with insubordination have always ended with the accused losing his wager. The gravity of such an offense only gains mass as its committal tracks up the ranks, seeing that from commissioning as a Second Leftenant, officers must observe and enforce military law. Breaches of said law voids a soldier of whatever traits and qualities that made him a soldier in the first place. What may those be? First and foremost, it is the surrender of personal liberties. Following these will come the pledge of allegiance to King and Country, reticence and securing the nation's secrets in conjunction with her interests. This is a soldier's life. He is subject to civil law, but over and above that, not subsequently or consequently, military law. Transgressing military law never makes a hero out of an offender.
 
The court martial was never about the truth that Major Zaidi intended to spill. Besides the fact that many voters already reported the same, two other service personnel from Butterworth base also made police reports in conjunction with the adulterated indelible ink, but they were not charged with any offense. Therefore the court was about transgressing rules wilfully.
 
Consider this: a fighter pilot with all the right tactical qualifications is assigned the task of taking out a vital point, let's say, a power plant tucked away in the hills. It is to be conducted by night and with night vision goggles. At tea time, this fighter jock has an epiphany that so strikes his conscience that he decides to get dressed in full ceremonial regalia adorned with all his gallantry medals and collar decorations and calls a press conference to report that an underhand plot is afoot to destabilise another state. Would any of this constitute a national warrior? Many, many more deeds of courage go unsung actually.
 
A court martial is quite different from a civil sitting. Forgive me for using "we" by force of habit, but we do not have the luxury of being so large in number that the President of the Court and the accused are unacquainted from Adam. Indeed, we are intertwined. This can be useful, in that we know the character of the man whose fate we are presiding over. There is something rather special about soldiers. We know each other's worst secrets. We consider some of those amongst us as individuals we wouldn't trust the sanctity of our granny's knickers with. Yet because he is a soldier, we would brawl in the streets to protect or avenge him. We will have his back. And sometimes, we draw the line. Because much as we do not want the worst to befall one of us, there is something much larger we are duty bound to preserve. That in this instance, is the fitness of an officer to continue to keep his commission in service to His Majesty.
 
I will likely never know what could have led to all this. After all, the truth is the first casualty of war. None of us know if Major Zaidi in fact did meet with his Commanding Officer and was advised on other means of dealing with his grievances as an officer. He may have been trivialised and could not accept that his passions did not warrant the pursuit he deemed them fit for. None of us have found his courage questionable. However, our virtually scantily understood lives in the officer's corps in lame attempt at living as a organisation that should be beyond reproach amidst all the other injuries it has had to suffer thus far has been further tormented by the very people and parties who have publicly claimed to be defending a man of integrity while glossing over the fact that his integrity is not in question. Attention has been diverted from the fact that while we are a part of you, we must also stand apart from you as we serve an interest that will almost always be in conflict with our own, but we have not the liberty to take our grievances to the street.
 
Let the truth be told, that the military justice system is fair. It places no stock in fanfare or dramatics. If a senior officer is facing a court martial for striking a junior officer for instance, his sentiments or his temperament at the time of the incident, or provocation on the part of the junior officer does not alter the fact that an offence has been committed. The question of "guilt" then is strictly over whether he committed the offense or not, full stop, where striking (ill treatment of) a junior officer is an offence under the Armed Forces Act 1972.
 
 
Furthermore, in case it has eluded all and sundry, a soldier should be vigilant towards anyone, individual or group, who would so manipulate his grievances to drive him to choose against his fellow soldiers. This very method of picking on the already agonised in defeat to convince him that he is a victim of a corrupt and repressive government was used on us in the infancy of this nation for recruitment in a war that lasted 40-odd years in our jungles and terrorism in our streets and villages. Really, if anyone were interested in Major Zaidi's welfare and future, they would help him move on rather than reinforce his frustrations into irreversible bitterness. He deserves a fresh start or else he risks turning out like the many petulant others who have not got their way, left with little but an oversized axe to grind.
 
 
Therefore, without a foundation of good service in His Majesty's Armed Forces, public comments on this court martial which ignore the surrender of an individual's liberties when signing up to serve King and country, do little more than reflect ignorance over the uncompromising intricacies of military conduct. They do not enlighten anyone on military justice, nor serve the future interests of Major Zaidi.
 
 
I say with regret and with honesty, that I am not Major Zaidi. And neither are many amongst you.

19 comments:

  1. Well said mate. The public has long been misled to believe that his police report had anything to do with his dismissal. Fact is he disobeyed standing orders which is a big no-no among military men. Just to correct you a little, he was in fact the commanding officer of his squadron at that time and his actions displayed his unsuitability as a commander, a bad example to his men in conduct and principle. When reprimanded, he used politics as his escape plan. In my opinion, he has misued public sentiments to gain popularity and pity.

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  2. bagus tulisan tuan..terima kasih untuk pencerahan dan pendapat yang bernas.

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  3. What you wrote is absolutely correct. But the military establishment has been brainwahsed with the rest of the civil service that BN=govt of Malaysia and vice versa. Why else would your former PTU tell his men that "you must vote for BN because they are paying your salaries"

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  4. Dear Anonymous,
    Thank you for your visit.
    To lay myself transparent to you and to Kok CS, I too was once scandalised in the elections as a serviceman at that time in MINDEF, that my postal vote had the secrecy of its ballot violated by the inclusion of my service number, rank, name and telephone number printed on it. I was apprehensive about whether or not to report the whole thing, but I decided to let it slide that time because it was my first ever postal vote, and I assumed, rightly or wrongly, that this was how postal votes ran. But let's say I were a better man, and wanted to report it. I know my hands would be tied unless MINDEF PR and senior officers in my chain of command sympathised with my outrage. Even if my immediate superior disagreed with me, I could go one step above him, and then if it failed, go on another step till either one side yields.
    Imperative to any of these theoretical endeavours, though, is MINDEF PR clearance. If I found opposition all the way, I would still have to abide by the AFCI.
    Or go it alone and face the music.
    Kok CS, thanks for dropping by. This is our first encounter and I am glad to have you as my guest.
    I cannot be sure which former PTU you speak of, but all the same, it is unfair for such flattery in handing that said Ex PTU the credit for spreading this concept, as it is of such ubiquity that surely other senior officers with their Barbie doll dress me up in regalia chase must have also contributed to the harmony of this mantra.
    In the end, a soldier must be able to tell between a lawful order and an unlawful one, the definitions of which are clear in the Act 72. Most of us know that unlawful orders are issued by those bereft of any wherewithal, to see how many fools fall for their bluff. Nothing stops a soldier from voting as his conscience dictates. If memory serves, there were elections when soldiers who were registered voters cast against the government when we sensed our political leaders to be uncouth, with the swing votes leading to a rapid and generous revision of our payscale.
    I would recommend that the alternative front learn to do the same by speaking the language of the soldier. With our strength in the hundreds of thousands, it is folly to keep rubbing us the wrong way with trashy theories of MH370, buoyant-only submarines,missing GE-J-85s and questioning our procurement plans. The Malaysian Armed Forces votes are worth courting!

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  5. Saudara Wan Kucen,
    Terima kasih di atas kunjungan saudara ke laman blog yang sederhana ini. Saya mengalu-alukan kehadiran dan persahabatan maya anda.

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  6. I believe it was during the 2004 GE. Lots of former military officers condemned him at that time; obviously none published in the mainstream media.

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  7. Ah that fellow!!! Thanks for refreshing my memory Kok CS!
    Well if I remember correctly, this was the guy who summoned me away from a coordination meeting for the Agong's birthday flypass, to pen up a media statement to counter an article alleging that the SU-30s were suffering a delay in their programme. Why the air force rep in MINDEF PR could not do it I do wonder. Same Chief who would have me edit his speeches to foreign air forces but as the chairman of the air board for Staff College candidates, would diligently make sure my name was struck off the list for upcoming courses local or overseas even though I consistently topped the ADFELPs year after year. Oh dear oh dear oh dear!

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  8. Those who can work; do. Those who cannot; get promoted

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  9. LOL!!!!!!! Yeah......so tragically and hilariously true.

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  10. Terimakasih, tentang penerangan tuan.

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  11. Apa khabar Saudara Anonymous
    Terima kasih di atas kunjungan anda ke halaman ini.
    Ada kemungkinan kepekaan pegawai dan LLP terhadap pemesongan hala tuju semakin terhakis akibat suasana keamanan yang telah dikecapi sejak PKM menandatangani persetujuan menghentikan agenda politik mereka sekitar tahun 1988. Pemberian nafas baru kepada sifat berwaspada ini tidak seharusnya di kenakan melaui kos konflik sederhana mahupun kecil.
    Ini tidak bererti bahawa anggota tentera harus mengabaikan tugas demokratik mereka untuk mencabut undi. Tugas tu tetap tugas meh? ;)
    Semoga kunjungan saudara memanfaatkan masa lapang saudara.

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  12. Sir,
    First time visit your blog and beginning to like it.A very clear explaination of the Mej Zaidi'S case.As far as Iam concern he disgraced himself and becomes a Political Joker.I hope he will not fell into the same category as Gen Hashim Jacp Palace....habis madu sepah dibuang....jadi Kera Sumbang.

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  13. Dear Anonymous
    Thanks for dropping by. I suspect you are a serviceman, and I would like to encourage you to keep persevering at your job. Serving the country is not an easy undertaking, and even a few good men can make all the difference in delivering what is required to the most needy when things go wrong. Perhaps you too, are one of these fast-dwindling good men.
    There have been a few officers who fell from places of esteem, amongst that one you mentioned. We had ex Air Commodore (Brig Gen Udara) Samsuri Welch Ponniah who after retiring was arrested on charges of pulling a firearm on people who confronted him over being unneighbourly. We had another well-read, gentle and eloquent General who was under inquiry for misappropriation and when advised to leave, attempted dragging the air force chief and the government to civil court for wrongful dismissal. The civil courts would not entertain such a case because the military had already ruled that his services were no longer required. It is quite unprecedented for a civil court to undertake proceedings to overrule a court martial when offences are so clearly outlined in the Armed Forces Act 72. Well, he also joined the opposition party and gives ceramahs here and there, especially in the run up to GE13. But as I have stated before, people with axes to grind do not inspire confidence because they comprise ex-team players who have fallen from the captain's grace, and not because they are individuals who left because of conscionable differences.
    I had not intended to "explain" Mej Zaidi's case, but to draw attention to some basic facts about courts martial from my little experience of having drawn charges against offenders and sitting on courts martial, from functioning as an escorting officer, to serving my duty as a member of the court.
    I noticed from all news portals that the civil lawyers Zaidi had engaged attempted to introduce courtroom drama into the proceedings, which of course was silenced immediately by the President of the court. You cannot call the President's use of the gavel in controlling the direction of the proceedings as "Hakim hentak meja", really la!! Also, Zaidi's oratory performance about meeting the President in Allah's court was also something that was uncalled for and cannot be allowed to influence the sterile deliberations of the court. These things matter in preserving the nature of our courts martial. But if my discussions here helped you to dispel the myths propagated by online media which do not understand the bonds that are upon soldiers, then I am glad that these pages have served you adequately.
    The fact is this: Zaidi's dismissal attracts many others who are disgruntled with authority figures, which is why they hail him as a hero and have myopically connected the un-connectable; the matter of indelible ink and free and fair elections do not fall under the military which has no jurisdiction over electoral protocol and cannot police civil law. The police reports were the perfect avenues for Zaidi to have taken, and I am sure he knew it.
    The consideration must be given that it is even more likely that transgressing the Act 72 was in fact a means to and end, that end being to guarantee that he could be returned to civil life and pursue a successful and more rewarding career as an airline pilot. Such a hope as a fighter pilot submitting his application to leave service would not have seen the light of day at a time when the air force has already seen too many losses in senior aircrew leaving for greener pastures while leaving the squadrons severely undermanned.
    Just saying'..... :)
    Do drop by again, sir.

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  14. Sir,
    I do not think that Mej Zaidi wanted to be discharge from His Majesty Service this way,only a mad man will do such thing.What I gather he was coaxed and misled by those opportunists for their own gain.The other thing is that he probably did not expect the AF will take such action as Court Martialing him.Anyway the sad episode had happened and what a waste by the AF to train a figther pilot.My opinion is that he will not have an easy time getting employment in the civil sectors as he carry a bad baggage with him.It is not easy for any airline companies to employ him as what gurantee that he may repeat the same nature of offence the next time around.The encouraging news is that both Sgor and Png are competing each other to offer him job....just wait and see.By the way what is significant of 1964 to you as indicated your blogs title Hobbits 1964...just curious..

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  15. I thank you for finding time in your busy General Aviation world to drop by here mate.
    Your conjuncture is as valid as anyone's mate. I had a viewpoint that it was also political pressure, which I do not discount the possibility of. Political pressure cannot be applied if no offense was committed though. Hence, it's the probability of political pressure that I dismiss.
    While you rightly point out that his suitability as an employee will fall into question with future employers, the main thing that so many have overlooked is that nowadays, almost all appointments of responsibility have confidentiality clauses outlined in the General Terms and Agreements. I read them when joining Sabah Air, I read similar clauses in the terms when signing up at MHS and yes, again when joining this company. Renege and you're in soup.
    But while we stew on that, it's interesting to know that Zaidi started his conversion to the Airbus 320 last week.
    And knowing what we know, isn't it interesting to see how the dubious fall into the ranks of those whom we think will turn this country around? I note your mention of the two states as I muse on this fact.
    Hobbit? Well, because in keeping with the description of hobbits, I am vertically challenged. The defining trait is that like them, I take to breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunches, dinner and supper. Familiar? '64 was the year of my birth. So right now, I am a fifty-year old hobbit cruising on to eleventy one!

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  16. Politicians Malaysians too many no special traing required, Fighter pilot very few not .Malaysian Politician can sack anybody they wish.even The Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas.Who ordered his dismissal. Maj Zaidi not cheap to train, Tun Salleh Abbas years of valuable experiance.Many wrongdoings by Politician and those supporting....free to create more problems.

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  17. Dear Anon
    You have stirred valid grouses. Get in the way of the ruling elite, and injustice spawns injustice. Frankly, I have never seen this country as a democracy in Parliament House. My take is that it is merely neo-feudalism, and the Lords are not even royalty.
    However I am constantly encouraged that the illuminating spirit of democracy remains alive on the street, in the people who want a more equitable means of governance, and more and more of those who hold decisive votes are joining these numbers. One day these numbers will tally at odds that disfavour the manipulative elite.
    Hard indeed shall their fall be.
    Or so I hope.
    I believe that we all seek a change, as the single ruling party has gone stale and long lost any semblance of flavour. However, most of the rants barked at the ruling elite are not on target, thereby robbing a desired opposition force of much needed credibility. Therefore as long as their ammunition falls off target, there is little response to elicit from the elite and elitists, and the threat of losing power is hugely diminished especially with the various institutionalised methods of cladding that is in place.
    It sucks. But to make a change, we need a unifying force that is sustainable, not petty potshots of little lasting impact.

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