KUALA LUMPUR: The inaugural Defence White Paper (DWP), which will be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat today, is set to strengthen the country’s defence through more comprehensive means.
The historic document, which contains plans that will be implemented in the next 10 years, is a culmination of engagements with the military and civil society.
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said the DWP was developed using the “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approaches, which means it contains input from experts and members of the armed forces, government enforcement agencies and various segments of society.
“It took into account the involvement and views of all ministries and government agencies, and the voice of all sectors of society, including non-governmental organisations, defence industry players, armed forces veterans, analysts and academicians,” he said,
“Engagements were also held with several strategic partner countries experienced in developing DWPs.”
“The DWP has also gone through several stages of presentations, including before the National Security Council, the Conference of Rulers, the Special Committee on Defence and Home Affairs and the cabinet.
Mohamad addressed the concerns of several quarters and gave an assurance that the DWP would not compromise defence secrets or the country’s sovereignty.
In explaining this point, he said there was a difference between the DWP and the existing National Defence Policy (NDP).
“The DWP is an open document containing the direction and priorities of defence for a period of 10 years, from 2021 to 2030, spanning the 12th and 13th Malaysia Plans.
“As the DWP is an open document, it is accessible to the people.”
He said the NDP, on the other hand, was related to highly classified defence policies, which had been available in 1971, 1979 and 1981.
“A comprehensive NDP was introduced in 1986 with a review in 1991, followed by another in 2006.
“The NDP is classified and a confidential document that can be accessed only by certain parties.”
Mohamad said the “openness” in the DWP’s implementation should not be misconstrued as something that would compromise national secrets or sensitive information.
“Rather, the DWP will fortify the country via the comprehensive defence concept, with the participation of the people.
“Matters pertaining to security and defence are aspects that cannot be compromised.
“The government’s openness through the DWP is a benchmark of good democratic values and governance in line with the practice of developed nations,” he said.
Mohamad, popularly known as Mat Sabu, added that the DWP was a document that set out the government’s direction in protecting national interests.
“Based on the National Defence Framework, the DWP is formulating a long-term strategy to ensure Malaysia continues to be a secure, sovereign and prosperous nation.”
On the DWP’s development goals, Mohamad said it was to engage and increase the participation of the people in national defence.
“The defence field prior to this has been exclusive and not open to the public.
“Hence, the DWP is an expression for all stakeholders to assume a shared responsibility in national defence.”
He said the second goal was to re-evaluate the ever-changing security strategic environment by taking into account current and future challenges.
“The third goal is to enhance the ability and readiness of the armed forces to protect the country at all times.”
He added that the policies and initiatives outlined in the DWP were a signal not only to local stakeholders, including the people, government agencies and the private sector, but also to foreign nations to enhance cooperation and understanding for mutual benefits.
He said systematic planning of the armed forces’ capacity procurement would ensure its readiness to face security challenges.
“This will also develop the defence industry to achieve the vision of self-reliance and generate additional economic revenue.”
One of the eight chapters in the DWP deals with the challenges and opportunities from Malaysia’s geographical position as a maritime country with continental roots.
“Malaysia’s potential is being pursued based on its position as a bridging linchpin between Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean,” said Mohamad.
A chapter is dedicated to “The People and Defence”, which encapsulates the views obtained from town hall sessions that involved all stakeholders in the country’s defence sector.
In this regard, the DWP will provide a clear description of the role of every agency, organisation and the people in the effort to maintain national security.
LEGITIMACY, ACCEPTABILITY AND RELIABILITY
On the benefits of the DWP, Mohamad said it would fulfil the vision of defending Malaysia as a secure, sovereign and prosperous nation.
This vision is achieved through three successes mentioned in the DWP, namely legitimacy, acceptability and reliability.
Legitimacy refers to the governmental authority as a key element in building internal resilience that enables the DWP to be built with inputs from various stakeholders in accordance with a democratic practice.
Acceptability is related to the DWP as a policy that has been agreed upon by government agencies in accordance with the “whole-of-government” method.
Reliability refers to the acknowledgment and belief that the armed forces is capable and ready to protect the national interests and defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Mohamad reiterated that the DWP would focus on developing a modernised “smart army” optimising the use of computers, cyberspace technology and state-of-the-art systems.
This, he said, would reduce reliance on traditional equipment and armaments like battle tanks, ships and weaponry and, instead, emphasise unmanned aerial vehicles, drones and cybersecurity-related equipment.
“The threats to the country’s sovereignty exist in various forms through non-traditional means, like cyberattacks, radicalism, terrorism, economic, social, political and psychological avenues to challenge the government.”
He said Malaysia strongly advocated defence diplomacy with its regional neighbours via bilateral and multilateral engagements.
He said the “smart army” concept was not new as several countries such as Australia, South Korea, the United States, Great Britain, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines and Singapore had long implemented in their DWPs.
This had resulted in a downsizing of their armed forces as more attention was paid towards the use of state-of-the-art equipment and cyberspace warfare.
Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong viewed the DWP as an historic achievement and praised Mohamad for his efforts.
“The DWP is a national document that has been drafted in consultation with various stakeholders, and will provide a framework and direction for the national defence of Malaysia in the years to come,” he said.