The rise of private political armies

MGG Pillai

Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

There is nothing unusual about the Federal Special Forces of Malaysia. It is a private political army, one of several in existence, formed by ambitious politicians to provide that extra pressure to get what they want.

Nothing unusual too that FSFM recruited 8,000 members, collected RM64 million, allegedly by selling military ranks, and had an elaborate network throughout the country, had an office in the Kuala Lumpur parliamentary constituency of a senior cabinet minister and yet escaped the attention of the home minister, the inspector-general of police, and the director of the Special Branch.

It is more likely they knew of its existence and its links to powerful Barisan Nasional politicians. What is frightening about it is that one in 12 policemen in Malaysia is a fake. It does not matter that the ranks it sold were military ranks. Few would have noted the difference. And that is worrying in any circumstance.

The prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, had nothing to say about it except to term it "crazy" for its leader, Nor Azmi Ahmad Ghazali, to "think he could topple the government and become the prime minister by setting up his own special forces".

The deputy prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said FSFM is investigated for its criminal activities and threats to national security. There is no link between FSFM and other military groups like Kumpulan Militan Malaysia, which the government alleges is linked to opposition political parties and fight for a fundamentalist Malaysia.

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