‘KRI Bima Suci 945’ docked at the National Hydrographic Centre in Port Klang yesterday. PIX BY SAIRIEN NAFIS

PULAU INDAH: IT was a blend of differing cultures, race, religion and personalities experienced by five young Malaysian officers.

The five Royal Malaysian Navy acting sub-lieutenants had the privilege to share this unique participation with their 83 Indonesian naval academy cadets (72 men and 11 women).

Their stint came by the way of a five-day voyage on board KRI Bima Suci 945, from Brunei to the National Hydrographic Centre in Port Klang yesterday.

The journey was never a dull moment for RMN’s Mohd Dzuhair Mohd Nidzar, 23, Joenelpy Ropplin, 25, Mohammad Faiq Asyraf Mohammad Haris, 25, Mohd Fahmi Hamidun, 23, and Mohd Shafiq Sholihin Azhar, 23.

“We were amazed that the Indonesian cadets, both men and women, from various ethnic backgrounds worked very well as a team.

“They were from different religions as well — from Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

“We four Malaysians, excluding Joenelpy, joined in the Muslim prayers with them.

“Joenelpy also joined their Christian prayer sessions,” said Dzuhair, from Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

Joenelpy from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah learnt a thing or two during the dining etiquette with his Indonesian shipmates.

“I observed that their breakfast meals are heavy, unlike us Malaysians who go light.

“I must say that their breakfast is as good as a complete lunch,” said Joenelpy, adding that they made full use of their five days to learn and share as much as possible.

He also discovered that, unlike in the RMN, it was mandatory for each of the Indonesian cadets to learn a musical instrument, and to learn to sing as well. Faiq from Jitra, Kedah, found their training doctrine similar to the RMN’s.

“For instance, we spent our initial four years at the Malaysian National Defence University before we moved for on-job-training at the KD Sultan Idris I facility in Lumut, Perak (on Oct 14).

“After that, we go fully operational in April next year, with postings at the various units.

(From left) Acting Sub-Lieutenants Mohd Fahmi Hamidun, Mohd Dzuhair Mohd Nidzar, Joenelpy Ropplin, Mohammad Faiq Asyraf Mohammad Haris and Mohd Shafiq Sholihin Azhar relating their experience on board the ‘KRI Bima Suci’ in Port Klang.

“The Indonesian cadets have a similar training programme,” said Faiq.

Fahmi, from Kulim, Kedah, observed that Muslim women cadets did not wear the hijab, as was the norm in countries like Malaysia and the Middle East.

“I understand that it is the same for the women cadets in the Indonesian army, air force and other enforcement agencies.

“The women, however, have the option to wear the hijab after they graduate for operational duties,” said Fahmi.

Shafiq, from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah said he was amazed at the lessons learnt on board a true sail ship.

“It was down to the basic fundamentals in astronomy, navigation and physics where we used traditional instruments to steer and manage the vessel to achieve the required standards.

“It is a totally different ball game, unlike the modern era of using state-of-the-art technology with high-tech gadgets,” said Shafiq.

KRI Bima Suci 945 is one of the world’s largest naval training sail ships that is on a three-day port call here, and which is open to the public.

On hand to welcome the vessel were Indonesian ambassador Rusdi Kirana, RMN assistant chief of staff (human resources) First Admiral Anuar Mohamed, Indonesian defence attache Colonel Andi Kuswantoro, its naval attache Colonel (Navy) Renny Lilik Asmoro and air attache Colonel (Air) Yose Ridha.

KRI Bima Suci 945 is on its 96-day annual training routine across the Asia Pacific, as part of its overseas task force codenamed ‘Kartika Jala Krida’.

The vessel is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel (Navy) S.H. Waluyo, while the ‘Kartika Jala Krida Training’ unit was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Afrilian Sukarno Timur. It departed from its base at Surabaya on Aug 5 for port calls at Manila (the Philippines), Osaka (Japan), Busan (South Korea), Shanghai (China), Brunei, Port Klang (Malaysia), Phuket (Thailand), Yangon (Myanmar), Padang (Indonesia), and Benoa and Darwin (Australia) before returning home.

The voyage is part of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s efforts to build greater cordial ties with the neighbouring maritime nations, as well as promote his country’s tourism and foreign investment. It is believed that the president, popularly known as Jokowi, wants to impart the Global Fulcrum Maritime Brotherhood diplomacy as a main component in Indonesia’s national defence.

The vessel, one of the highest mast sailboats owned by the Indonesian navy, besides KRI Dewaruci, can accommodate up to 209 personnel (35 officers, 73 sailors and 101 cadets).