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Malaysia’s land, naval and air defence assets are ranked the lowest among all Southeast Asian countries, says Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu. Pic by NSTP/MOHAMAD SABU FB

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s land, naval and air defence assets are ranked the lowest among all Southeast Asian countries, says Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu.

Mohamad said this was in stark contrast to the 1970s, when Malaysia was at the top.

“In terms of our navy, air force and others in Southeast Asia, we are at the bottom.

“Vietnam is far ahead, Indonesia is on top while Malaysia is the lowest.

“It is embarrassing right now for us (on the international stage), but I will work to make Malaysia great again, number one again,” said Mohamad during the Ministers’ Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat, on Thursday.

However, it remains unknown for now as to whether Mohamad was referring to the quality of the assets, quantity or service level.

Globalfirepower, a website which assesses the military strengths of countries, in its ‘2018 Military Strength Ranking’ ranked Malaysia in fifth out of nine countries in Southeast Asia, ahead of Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia and Laos.

Mohamad was answering a supplementary question from Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah (PH - Port Dickson) who had asked the minister to clarify issues pertaining allocations for defence.

Mohamad said interruptions to defence allocations have made it difficult for the ministry to carry out projects and the necessary maintenance.

“The Armed Forces had asked for RM1.8 billion but only RM1.1 billion was approved for the maintenance of the Sukhoi jets.

“These assets are all old, and need lots of allocations to be restored.

“I can blame the previous government, but that won’t solve any problems.

“We will fix all weaknesses and we will not repeat past mistakes,” he said.

To the original question from Datuk Dr Abd Latiff Ahmad (BN - Mersing) on the government’s immediate plans to upgrade the country’s air defence capabilities, Mohamad said the ministry is looking at maritime surveillance aircraft (MSA) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) as the best options.

Mohamad said these assets would be useful for patrols in the South China Sea and the Melaka Straits.

“The combination of these MSAs and UAVs have a unique advantage; we are assessing them based on the abilities of these assets as well as price comparisons.

“Some say that MSAs are better, others go with the UAVs. We will study these two options to strengthen our assets so that they are on par with those of other nations,” he said.

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