KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 – Former defence minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (pic) has asked Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong, to declassify intelligence information regarding Ops Yemen 2.
He said this today (Dec 5) in response to the bombshell dropped by Liew on Monday (Dec 3) in Parliament that Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) personnel were deployed to assist military operations in Saudi Arabia in relation to the Yemen war without Cabinet approval.
Hishammuddin claimed the matter was handled by the National Security Council (NSC).
“He said the matter wasn’t brought to the Cabinet. (He should) ask what happened in the NSC,” he told reporters when met at the Parliament lobby on Wednesday (Dec 5).
“But, you must declassify the information as it is considered to be of national interest,” he said.
Hishammuddin distributed copies of an extract from the parliamentary Hansard to show that he answered queries on an earlier operation, Ops Yemen 1, and Malaysia’s participation in a joint military exercise (Thunder of the North) in Saudi Arabia.
He said that he gave the answers in Parliament on March 16, 2016 and March 15, 2017.
“So, I don’t know why this issue is being raised now. Maybe this minister is still in the Opposition mindset of pointing fingers and looking for faults,” said Hishammuddin.
He said 763 Malaysian students were evacuated under Ops Yemen 1.
“When people say that blood is on my hands, they did not speak about the 763 students we saved in Yemen,” Hishammuddin said.
He added that there were still over 700 Malaysians left in Yemen.
“We have now pulled out our personnel. If something happens, ask Liew and Raja Kamarul Raja Bahrin to go to Yemen and save them,” said Hishammuddin.
Liew, when met at the Parliament lobby today, insisted that Cabinet approval for such an operation was needed as it involved government expenditure.
It also affected the nation’s foreign policy of non-interference in conflict zones, unless it was under the auspices of the United Nations.
“The issue is that such a big decision involving RM14mil in three years and a large number of personnel should have been decided by the Cabinet,” he told reporters on Wednesday (Dec 5).
Liew explained that Hishammuddin is confusing the issue by talking about Ops Yemen 1.
“No one is disputing Ops Yemen 1 as it involved the evacuation of Malaysians, but Ops Yemen 2 was against our foreign policy of non-interference.”
Liew also said that Ops Yemen 2 was not to evacuate Malaysians from the conflict zone but to assist the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition in the Yemen war.
“If it was against this (non-interference) policy, it should have been decided by Cabinet,” he added.
He also noted there was no need for Ops Yemen 2 as the 700 Malaysians in Yemen did not want to be evacuated. Instead, they had decided to remain behind.
Liew said that Hishammuddin was free to raise the issue when debating the Defence Ministry’s allocation under Budget 2019 on Thursday (Dec 6).