KUALA LUMPUR: Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) is not above criticism but no one should insult the soldiers as they have sacrificed a lot for the country. Expressing regret over recent remarks by certain parties insulting the MAF, he said the critics were naive and had misunderstood the role of the Defence Ministry and the MAF in defending the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and people’s well-being.

“I like to emphasise that the independence, sovereignty and national security being enjoyed today is the result of the sacrifice of soldiers who are willing to risk their lives. “Let us stand firm behind them (MAF). We can criticise, but not to the extent of insulting,” he told reporters after launching the “Fly the Jalur Gemilang” campaign in conjunction with the National Day celebration at the ministry here yesterday.

Mohamad pointed out that armed forces personnel are the frontliners of the government in defending various domestic and international issues related to security. “When the country is safe, people can carry out their daily activities without having to worry about being shot or bombed like in some other countries,” he said. He said foreign investors and tourists also would be attracted to come to Malaysia if they know that the country is safe and development activities could be carried out without any hindrance.

T h e military, he said, has played a pivotal role in rescue operations during disasters in the country or neighbouring countries, apart from serving under the United Nations banner in peacekeeping missions worldwide. Mohamad said in fact, the armed forces also has its duties to fulfil when the country is peaceful.

“This is the contribution of the Defence Ministry and the ATM that many are unaware of,” he said. Earlier, in his speech, Mohamad said humiliating the army forces is a disgusting act and is totally unacceptable regardless of the race of the perpetrators. Responding to a question at the press conference, he said the ministry is leaving it to the police to investigate the recent case of a tycoon who made disparaging remarks against soldiers.

“When there is a police report, we leave it to the police to take the necessary action. There is no room for the word ‘sorry’,” Mohamad said, adding that the issue should not be viewed from a racial perspective. On the Defence White Paper, he said it is being fine-tuned before it is tabled at the next Parliament session. On the search and rescue operation for two Sarawakian soldiers who went missing last month while on duty on Pulau Perak, Kedah, Mohamad said the land search is ongoing and it would be intensified if new leads are found. “But so far, no new leads have emerged,” he said. – Bernama