When Major Zaidi Ahmad of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) – stationed at Butterworth – found that the indelible ink used in GE13 was not permanent, he did not want unscrupulous people to abuse the system and vote multiple times.
Thus he thought he was upholding the constitution by lodging a police report about the ink, but found himself on the wrong end of the law. Today, he faces trial on various charges relating to that report and for sending text messages about the non-indelible ink.
Malaysians are entering the latest phase of a new reign of terror. The charges against Major Zaidi are an attempt by Umno Baru to solidify its stranglehold on the nation. It hopes to consolidate its power by vilifying a member of the armed forces.
Many people may not be aware that officers of the Malaysian armed forces swear an oath of allegiance and loyalty to the Agong and the country, in which they undertake to “support and defend the federal constitution, the Agong, and the country against foreign or domestic enemies…” and that they will “faithfully discharge their duties…”
Note that this oath clearly states that they must defend the country against domestic enemies.
A week before the GE13 on May 5, 2013, military personnel were allowed to exercise their democratic right and cast their votes first. Some of them allege that the ink washed off easily a few hours after they had voted, despite the claims made by the Election Commission (EC) that the ink was indelible.
Only a weak leadership will search for a scapegoat to teach other members of the armed forces (and also the civil servants) that they will be punished if they do not obey Umno Baru.
Ordinary rakyat face similar humiliations. Some people allege that comments they make during meetings, may be used against them. People who criticise the Umno Baru government, or relate problems they may have faced during their dealings with a government department, find that within days of making those remarks, income tax department officials have paid them a visit to scrutinise their income tax returns.
Afraid of further humiliations
Others have alleged that when leaving the country, their passports are found to be “not in order”. They then have to resolve the problems at immigration headquarters, before they are allowed to leave the country, or may find that they are possibly barred from travel.
We are rarely told these stories because those who have been affected do not want to invite more reprisals. Others are afraid of further humiliations after being blacklisted. A few may also be fearful of losing a vital government contract or place in university, which they worked hard to achieve.
Pillorying Zaidi is more than just political. It is a warning to curb possible insubordination in members of the armed forces. It is also a way of purging dissent.
All Zaidi did was to tell the truth, and punishing him will undoubtedly have a ripple effect. Friends and families in the military world may sympathise with Zaidi and openly support the opposition.
Already, Umno Baru is worried about the open support of former military chiefs for Pakatan. Perhaps, Umno Baru might have read about the situations in surrounding countries where the armed forces have aligned themselves with the angry citizens.
Recently, whilst the government was busy directing its police and armed forces to hound the opposition politicians and supporters, three People’s Republic of China (PRC) navy ships landed on the James Shoal – about 80km from the Bintulu coastline – and swore to protect China’s sovereignty.
Despite reports in the Chinese-language papers, Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) chief Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar denied claims that there was an incursion by the PRC navy.
Abdul Aziz is the same man, who in 2012 claimed that the RM3.4 billion Scorpene submarines would give the Malaysian navy more “muscle” and help prevent a repeat of the “1511 episode”, meaning the invasion of Malacca by the Portuguese navy in 1511.
The Malaysian navy has previously been caught napping, as we know to our cost, from breaches in security off the Sabah eastern shoreline.
Zaidi’s actions are in stark contrast to the army veterans whose best military offensive was to show off their butts in front of former Bersih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan’s house in 2012. They were trying to intimidate her because Bersih had called for free, fair and clean elections.
Unlike Zaidi (right), many of his superiors – who kept silent despite being aware of voting irregularities in GE13 – have broken their oath of allegiance and are therefore, traitors. Umno Baru is aware that if indelible ink was to be used, they would lose GE13.
The poignancy of Zaidi’s two text messages, which got him into trouble, show us the true measure of a man, but more importantly, a patriot. He sought “divine guidance to defend the nation from tyrants, liars and corrupt leaders”.
He also urged others to “defend the mother land from corrupt people and cheaters” and also to stop “being cowards or else our children and grandchildren will piss on our graves”.
Umno Baru has made a mockery of democracy, and the rakyat’s patience is running thin. Military men and women risk their lives in the line of duty, but find that as ordinary citizens, their democratic rights are snatched from them.
Malaysians salute Zaidi for making a stand for the rakyat. Now in his hour of need, we too must make a stand and show our undivided support for him.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).