by Abdul Rahmat Omar
January 30 2018
YESTERDAY, a video of the 31st Royal Artillery Regiment leaving the Kuala Lumpur Air Base for good, was made viral on WhatsApp with a caption saying that the strategic base was not defended with bullets, but instead was surrendered to the enemy by the politicians.
The Kuala Lumpur Air Base, or fondly known as Sempang among aviators, became officially operational on June 1, 1941, six months before the Japanese invasion of Malaya and Singapore, and served as a communications air station with the Royal Air Force base at RAF Seletar.
It was then called the RAF Station Kuala Lumpur.
Other than having old buildings that are expensive to maintain and are infested by white ants, the Kuala Lumpur Air Base is located on a tin-rich area making lightning strikes, communications and power blackouts frequent features.
The old and cramped buildings also house important units such as the Air Support Command Headquarters.
The single 3,934-foot runway (Code 2) air base can hardly handle any of the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s modern transports safely.
The Category VI fire and rescue services means that it cannot handle the newer A400M. It does not have the capability to remove disabled, it has no cargo handling facilities, no health and sanitation services for aircraft, no meteorological briefing office, no air traffic services (except ground, departures and arrivals control), and no repair facilities for aircraft.
The number of high-rise buildings in the vicinity of its approach means large aircraft would have to do spot landings, while the railway embankment at the end of the runway means extensive damage to or total write off of aircraft if it fails to take off.
There is little wonder what any of that would do to the air crew.
The air units will now be operating from the far larger Subang Air Base. The non-flying units will be moved to the new Sendayan Air Base.
The 31st Royal Artillery Regiment has moved to its larger and more modern home at the Tun Ibrahim Camp in Kajang.
If utilising the Kuala Lumpur Air Base as a helicopter base or a staging point for helicopters in the defence of Kuala Lumpur is the proposed argument, I hope the detractors realise that helicopters do not need an air base to operate from.
There are hundreds of suitable football fields in Kuala Lumpur alone that can be utilised for helicopters.
And what of the Kuala Lumpur Air base being a strategic military installation that has been handed over to China without firing a shot by the politicians?
Let us look at the shareholding of the land to be known as Bandar Malaysia:
- 40 percent is owned by Ministry of Finance Incorporated;
- 22 percent is owned by Credence Resources Sdn Bhd, a private company owned by Malaysians;
- 14 percent is owned by Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ); and,
- 24 percent is owned by China Railway Engineering Corporation, which will build the High-Speed Rail terminus there.
Therefore, 76 percent belongs to Malaysia where 54 percent belongs to government entities. How does that represent a China ownership? And for anyone to build any structure on any piece of land, by law they are required to obtain permission from the local council.
If a land belongs to a foreign country as claimed, why would they still need a Malaysian local council’s permission to build anything?
If we go by the logic the detractors have to offer, Malaysia now owns two parts of Singapore – Marina One in Marina Bay, and Duo in Bugis, by virtue that Khazanah Nasional has a 60 percent stake in these projects.
Military units are being moved from antiquated camps and bases to larger and modern ones.
Eight new military installations have been or are being built by 1MDB in exchange for its purchase of the Kuala Lumpur Air Base.
That is eight installations for one, without the government having to spend a single sen to house the military units.
Why is that such a bad thing?
The UK Ministry of Defence recently announced the closure of 56 military installations including the 243-year old Woolwich Barracks (home of the Royal Artillery) and the 291-year old Fort George (home of the Queen’s Own Highlanders).
Fort George simply because there is no more Jacobite uprising! Yet it was a strategic installation during World War Two because it was used to train troops and house tanks.
Stop politicising defence.
It does no one any good. Be glad that Kuala Lumpur as well as Putrajaya are now encircled by new and major military camps and bases in Port Dickson, Sendayan, Subang, Jugra.
It’s the era of mobility. You don’t need to be in KL to fight a war in KL.