Two retired army men said those who organised the demonstration that claimed the life of a special forces major in Sabah on Sept 4 had failed to observe the standard operating procedure (SOP) for such programmes.
“(There is an) obvious non-compliance of SOP,” a retired general said of the incident in which commando Major Mohd Zahir Armaya was shot and killed during a live-fire demonstration at the launch of the Fifth Infantry Division and 13th Infantry Brigade at the Lok Kawi Camp just outside Kota Kinabalu.
Zahir, the son of comedian AR Badul, had been playing the role of a terrorist when an army officer returned fire, hitting him in the back on an area not covered by the bulletproof vest he had been wearing.
The former officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was not common practice for the army to use live ammunition for such demonstrations, especially to shoot another soldier, even if he was wearing a bulletproof vest.
He said while it was tragic that an officer had been killed unnecessarily, he also feared for those involved in organising the event, as this could be a blotch in their military record, if not end their careers.
Major (Rtd) Billie Teo agreed, saying the officers who approved the use of live rounds were sure to face grave consequences.
“We shouldn’t use live rounds in this instance, as it is too close,” Teo said, referring to the demonstration’s proximity to spectators, who were standing mere metres away at the edge of the field.
He said it was possible that, because the organisers likely had a long list of factors to consider, including when and where the demonstration would take place, some regulations were overlooked.
“All safety measures should have been considered, foremost being the safety distance of a ricocheting bullet, the expertise of the participants and training they had for this kind of demonstration.”
Teo also wondered if the officers had taken that morning’s weather conditions into consideration, as wind speed, humidity and other crucial data could affect one’s shooting ability.
“An elite officer has died for nothing. It is sad.”
Zahir, 36, who was laid to rest in his hometown of Ipoh, Perak, yesterday morning, was from the 11th Regiment special unit based at the Sg Udang Camp in Malacca. – TMI