There have been disturbing conflicting accounts of what is happening in Kampung Jenalik near Sauk, from reports of three gun battles yesterday between police and soldiers closing in on the gang of 15 heavily-armed men and the denial by the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai that there had been any "exchange of fire" saying that the gang was "test-firing" their stolen armoury; the photographs of two wounded soldiers at the Kuala Kangsar Hospital; the conflicting accounts about the number and identity of hostages taken by the gang, whether the authorities have identified the members of the gang, etc.
There appears to be split police-military commands dealing with the crisis when what is urgently needed is a centralised command to co-ordinate all police and military operations which would avoid conflicting statements about what is happening in Sauk, which is not good for credibility, such as conflicting reports ranging from 500 to 2000 soldiers and policemen being sent to Kampung Jenalik.
Defence Minister, Datuk Najib Tun Razak said yesterday that the soldiers who manned the camps where the arms heist took place felt intimidated by the bogus officers but more than that they were completely duped into thinking that these were really military officers.
Najib said the language used by the officers was army-style, adding that one of he Pajero drivers flashed an army badge and the privates were fully convinced it was a surprise check.
I find Najibís explanation shocking, as he seems to be suggesting that
if the gang had comprised genuine military officers, it would be
excusable for the sentries to allow the military officers to pull rank
and have unauthorised access to the armouries in disregard of military
discipline, security and procedures.
What would be the position if one day, the arms heist is committed not by bogus officers but by genuine officers?
What Najib had inadvertently let slip might have highlighted a shocking deterioration of military discipline and security where officers are allowed to pull rank and "intimidate" junior military personnel in disregard of regulations and procedures.
There should be an independent inquiry not only into the two arms heists in Perak on Sunday, the position of lost weaponry in the armed services for the past decade, but even more important, the overall question of military discipline and security in the country.