Earlier this month, Malaysia’s deputy defense minister disclosed a number of plans designed to follow through on the country’s defense priorities following the release of the white paper in early December. The plans put the spotlight on a notable development within Malaysia’s defense policy under the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, despite the uncertainties that remain over its wider significance.
As I have noted before in these pages, one of the initial pledges made by the new PH government after its shock ouster of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government in May 2018 was a more transparent approach in defense policy, including the release of the country’s first-ever comprehensive defense white paper to outline its priorities over the next decade. And in December we saw the document tabled in parliament by Malaysia’s Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu, with a public disclosure to the public expected to come in January.
Earlier this month, Malaysia’s defense priorities were once again in the headlines with comments by the country’s deputy defense minister. Deputy Defense Minister Liew Chin Tong told Malaysia’s parliament that Malaysia was planning on moving forward with several plans with respect to the development of the country’s military in 2020 and beyond.
Per local media reports, Liew said during his remarks at the defense ministry’s Supply Bill that Malaysia planned on moving forward with three core plans related to defense: the National Defense Investment Plan (3PN); the Defense Capacity Framework (RTKP); and the National Defense Industry Policy (DIPN). The 3PN relates to strategic defense investment efforts; the RTKP relates to the development of human capital at the defense ministry and the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF); and the DIPN relates to the transformation of the local defense industry. Liew indicated that these plans would be presented in 2020 and 2021 and that they would come into effect by 2030 in line with the decade timeline for the defense white paper.
Liew’s comments are in line with what Malaysian officials had indicated previously about the initial defense white paper being followed by more specific related steps thereafter. Nonetheless, the added specificity is welcome given the lingering doubts among some about how the defense white paper will actually be implemented in the coming years.
Whether or not these plans will be carried forward as Liew indicated in 2020 and 2021 remains to be seen: as I have noted previously, even though these are laudable efforts to follow through on intended objectives on the defense side, there are broader issues that play into this including the long list of political and economic challenges the PH government faces and whether or not its mandate will be renewed in the next general election in Malaysia.
Still, the attention given to follow through is nonetheless notable as it provides a sense of incremental follow through steps that the Malaysian government will look to undertake on the defense side and it is in line with the spirit of transparency that the PH government had said it was intent on promoting. As such, the state of progress on this plans will continue to be important to watch into 2020 and beyond.