KUALA LUMPUR — After the revelation that not one, but two jet engines worth RM50 million each from the Royal Malaysian Air Force were stolen and sold in the black market in 2007, the nation is shocked yet again to learn that the RMAF had also lost 100,000 canisters of courage to thieves.
In what Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi refers to as ‘a betrayal to the country and its people’, the many units of precious human virtue were, by chance, discovered missing after the team investigating the missing engines did a complete audit of the RMAF inventory.
“This is preposterous!” said an incensed Zahid at a Press conference in MINDEF. “First, these conniving thieves cart away with millions of ringgit’s worth of jet engine, only to sell it back to us. Now we learn that they also took so many units of courage! How are my soldiers supposed to fight enemies when not fully equipped with such an important virtue?
“We’re still grappling with the loss of the engines, we can’t deal with this!”
In the earlier jet engine case, two units of General Electric J85-21A afterburner turbojet engines — the power plant for the single-seater F-5E Tiger 11 and RF-5E Tigereye — were discovered missing from the Sungai Besi RMAF airbase during routine maintenance service. Also missing were their maintenance and service records.
Asked how the thieves managed to get pass the security system while moving such a big number of courage, Zahid said that it could only have been pulled off by inside people with acute knowledge of the RMAF security protocols.
“We have multiple levels of security checks and verifications to ensure nothing gets out of RMAF inventory without being cleared by the base’s top management,” said Zahid. “Obviously there is a leak in the system, with trusted officers committing this grave offence for their own personal gain.
“However, make no mistake. We have set up an independent investigative panel, consisting military and police personnel, along with consultants from the MACC, to probe this. It’s impossible to escape with such a big quantity of courage without leaving a trail. We’ll get to the bottom of this, and get the culprits.
“Although courage, like other rare human virtues like honesty and integrity, is hard to find, it can be quite outstanding in the black market, a place filled with people with fear. A powerful trait like courage will shine when put in a sea of cowardice, so it wouldn’t be long before we sense it. We have people tracking it as we speak.”
Asked how many of the RMAF personnel would be affected by the lack of courage, Zahid said that nearly half of the lower-ranking personnel stood to be courage-deficient, but fortunately, the other branches of the military like the Navy and Army had kept spare units, and were willing to lend them to RMAF. “This is temporary, of course, until we find the missing units, or we get new ones for the RMAF. So don’t worry, we will not be seeing our men and women in uniform walking around being afraid of everything.
“Thankfully we are not at war, so the need for large amounts of courage and other virtues like self-sacrifice and team spirit is not so dire.”
Zahid added that he will be looking at revamping the security system and policies to prevent more of such thefts from occuring in the future.
“We’ll be making the procurement and inventory systems more transparent, and institute more checks and audits. God knows we can’t afford to lose more crucial items like jet engines and courage.”
Finally, asked whether he and his investigative team would have the courage to prosecute ‘big fish’ if senior officers were found guilty of the thefts, Zahid said that his own courage was procured when he was in the previous ministry, and was not part of the RMAF stock, and that it was still very much intact in his heart. “I’ve made sure that the people I picked to probe this case still had ample reserves of courage. They would definitely need courage to go after the big fish, if necessary.
“And we will be merciless.”