Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob is of the opinion the question of legality regarding police and the Armed Forces joining hands to keep the country and its people safe during a crisis should not even be brought up.
He said as stipulated under Section 5 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342), it allows the Health Ministry, who had the authority, to appoint or to authorise any government agencies as deemed necessary to control or enforce any orders that were introduced.
“This is why the police have received an authorisation letter from the Health Minister and the Defence Ministry has also been empowered by the Health Minister as provided under Section 5 (of the said Act).
“Why does no one question the assistance and deployment of the army during disasters such as floods?
“Emergency laws are never declared during flood crisis, but the army (for instance) has always been helpful,” he said in a Facebook post.
He also reiterated the army was to help the police ensure everyone would comply to the Movement Control Order (MCO) during this Covid-19 pandemic situation.
Starting tomorrow (Sunday), the Armed Forces would join the police in keeping the peace and upholding the MCO.
Meanwhile, former deputy defence minister Liew Chin Tong has said that he sees nothing wrong with deploying the Malaysian Armed Forces to aid the police in enforcing the MCO.
In a statement, Liew said, “We must mobilise all resources at our disposal and be prepared to step up, scale up and win this war against Covid-19.”
Liew, however, stopped short of expressing his full support for Ismail Sabri’s announcement, stressing that since he is no longer part of the government, he is “not privy to the thinking process of the minister, so I don’t wish to speak for the minister nor defend him.”
He urged the government to leverage the armed forces’ full range of capabilities in this time of crisis and ensure that personnel are asked to do more than just conduct patrols.
“It will be really unfortunate if the government or our society at large thinks that what the armed forces could do is just patrolling.
“My key message is that as a government, as a society, and as a nation, especially in time of crisis, we need to know the full range of capabilities residing with our armed forces and deploy them most effectively,” he said.
He went on to suggest, quoting a Malay idiom “Sediakan payung sebelum hujan” (“Prepare an umbrella before it rains”), that the armed forces be asked to prepare a worst-case scenario plan in the event the Covid-19 situation deteriorates in Malaysia.
“The armed forces are almost like a “government within a government” with its medical corps, engineering corps, CBRNe (chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear explosive) unit etc. All assets can be deployed in the event of a crisis.
“The primary role of the armed forces is to prepare and to fight war. ‘Military Operations Other Than War’ (MOOTW), such as disaster relief, is the armed forces’ secondary role.
“The armed forces are trained to deal with all sorts of contingencies and provide possible responses, of course, under the guidance and instruction of the civilian authorities,” he said.
Liew then mooted some roles that the armed forces could play should the crisis deepen, such as assisting civilian authorities if there is a need for a more intense version of the MOC; using military hospitals to supplement public hospital capacities; and building temporary structures for emergency use.