AN OF­FI­CER AND A GEN­TLE­MAN

TASNIM LOK­MAN talks to Cy­ber­Se­cu­rity Malaysia chair­man and for­mer army chief Gen­eral (Rtd) Tan Sri Mohd Azumi Mo­hamed about his pas­sions, great­est achieve­ments and a chance en­counter in his youth, which led to an il­lus­tri­ous mil­i­tary ca­reer

New Straits Times - - NEWS -

DUR­ING his youth, Gen­eral (Rtd) Tan Sri Mohd Azumi Mo­hamed used to think about be­com­ing ei­ther a politi­cian or a lawyer.

Grow­ing up in Perak he would fol­low closely the de­vel­op­ment in na­tional pol­i­tics and in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, and was sur­rounded by many friends who were from the law fra­ter­nity.

He counted the Seeni­vasagam broth­ers, who came from a fam­ily of prom­i­nent lawyers, as his men­tors and close friends.

“I was very keen to be­come a politi­cian. When I was in school, I had (Datuk Seri) S.P. (Sri Padhmaraja) and D.R. (Darma Raja) as my men­tors,” said Azumi, 70.

But fate had other plans for Azumi. His in­volve­ment in sports in his youth led to an in­vi­ta­tion to join the army.

As a young­ster ac­tive in sports, he and his friends would go to Padang Ipoh to play hockey and that’s where they would dream of be­com­ing hot­shot lawyers.

He said one of the roads fac­ing the field was Jalan Tun Sam­ban­than, which was dot­ted with top law firms in the state.

In 1966, he rep­re­sented his home state of Perak in a hockey match against a team from the armed forces. He re­calls how impressed he was with their de­meanour, and that they were tough and coura­geous, even when they walked and talked with one an­other.

“Perak won that game,” he said. But an army ma­jor who saw him dur­ing that match was also impressed with Azumi’s char­ac­ter and sport prow­ess.

“Ma­jor Yaa­cob (Gen­eral (Rtd) Tan Sri Yaa­cob Mohd Zain), who later be­came the armed forces chief, ap­proached me and asked if I was in­ter­ested in join­ing the ser­vice.

“I made my de­ci­sion right on the spot. I looked at him, and I looked at the other of­fi­cers… and I said yes,” said Azumi.

He said his school teach­ers were shocked upon hear­ing the news that he was join­ing the army, as they were con­vinced that he would have ended up in pol­i­tics.

Look­ing back at his de­ci­sion, he said he could not say no to an of­fer to serve his coun­try.

He had be­friended the hockey play­ers from the army, and he ad­mit­ted that the thought of pro­tect­ing the coun­try and serv­ing in the army were en­tic­ing to him as a young man.

“I was impressed with the army men and I wanted to em­u­late what I saw.

“I wanted to carry my­self with that level of con­fi­dence.

“The mil­i­tary trained me to be an of­fi­cer and a gen­tle­man.”

Azumi un­der­went cadet of­fi­cer train­ing at the Royal Mil­i­tary Col­lege in Sun­gai Besi be­fore at­tend­ing the Aus­tralian Cadet Of­fi­cers School at Port­sea near Mel­bourne.

He was com­mis­sioned as a sec­ond lieu­tenant with the Royal Malay Reg­i­ment in 1969 and was posted to the reg­i­ment’s Third Bat­tal­ion.

Dur­ing his stint in the Royal Malay Reg­i­ment’s Third Bat­tal­ion, Azumi was based in Alor Star, Kedah, and served the cur­rent sul­tan of Kedah, Sul­tan Salle­hud­din Sul­tan Badlishah, who was then the com­pany’s sec­ond-in-com­mand.

Azumi was serv­ing as a pla­toon com­man­der.

“We were in­volved in the se­cu­rity op­er­a­tion of track­ing down com­mu­nist in­sur­gents along the Malaysian-Thai bor­der. Later, our men were de­ployed to the is­lands off Sabah.

“The sul­tan of Kedah demon­strated fine qual­i­ties of an of­fi­cer and a gen­tle­man. He dis­played good lead­er­ship qual­i­ties to­wards the pla­toon com­man­ders.

“We quickly learn about hu­mil­ity when we lead other men.”

Azumi cited one of their mis­sions in Sin­tok, Kedah, dur­ing the com­mu­nist in­sur­gency as their most gru­elling chal­lenge.

The sol­diers were tasked with cor­don­ing off a vil­lage and keeping the peace as they waited for the po­lice to pick up com­mu­nist sym­pa­this­ers fol­low­ing a mass mur­der in the vil­lage.

“It was bru­tal... That is why we must be grate­ful for the peace, tran­quil­lity and pros­per­ity that we en­joy in Malaysia com­pared with other coun­tries. There is so much de­struc­tion out there; civil wars, eth­nic con­flicts and peo­ple forced to leave their coun­try and be­come refugees.

“But our coun­try erad­i­cated the com­mu­nist threat. This was not only due to the govern­ment’s se­cu­rity and de­vel­op­ment pol­icy, but also due to the fact that the ma­jor­ity of our peo­ple did not sup­port the com­mu­nist move­ment.”

Azumi later at­tended the United States’ Army In­fantry Ad­vanced Course in Fort Ben­ning, Ge­or­gia, in 1978 and was posted to the army train­ing cen­tre where he served for two years as an in­struc­tor in the All Arms Tac­tics Wing and in the Com­pany Com­man­der Course.

He was pro­moted to the rank of lieu­tenant-colonel in 1983 and com­manded the 305 In­fantry Bat­tal­ion.

He served as di­rect­ing staff at the Armed Forces Staff Col­lege in 1985, where he taught the In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity and De­vel­op­ment module.

On June 21, 1995, Azumi was pro­moted to bri­gadier-gen­eral, and this led to high-pro­file tasks over­seas.

Among them was the de­ploy­ment of Malaysian peace­keep­ing troops and mil­i­tary ob­servers in Cam­bo­dia, So­ma­lia and Bos­ni­aHerze­gov­ina un­der the United Na­tions ban­ner.

He and his men also rep­re­sented the coun­try at the UN Troop Con­tribut­ing Na­tions meet­ing in Sara­jevo.

Pro­moted to lieu­tenant-gen­eral in 2001, Azumi be­came the gen­eral of­fi­cer com­mand­ing chief in Sabah and Sarawak from Dec 1, 2001, to Sept 10, 2003.

Azumi’s hard work paid off when he suc­ceeded Gen­eral (Rtd) Datuk Seri Mohd Shahrom Nordin and be­came the 20th army chief on Sept 10, 2003.

Af­ter re­tir­ing from the force at 55, Azumi con­tin­ues to ful­fil his du­ties as a board mem­ber in var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions. He has par­tic­i­pated in hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sions in war-torn coun­tries.

“I don’t feel like stop­ping any time soon. I will con­tinue to work for as long as I can.

“I am mo­ti­vated by the work of Prime Min­is­ter Tun Dr Ma­hathir Mo­hamed. He is 93 years old.

“So, what more for a 70-yearold re­tired gen­eral like me?”

He said his fam­ily has al­ways sup­ported him in his work and pas­sions. His wife has par­tic­i­pated in his over­seas mis­sions, in­clud­ing one time where she was a vol­un­teer in a group that de­liv­ered med­i­cal sup­plies to Gaza four years ago.

His wife had ac­com­pa­nied him to Iraq once, where she vis­ited dis­placed chil­dren and fam­i­lies two years ago.

In 2008, Azumi be­came the chair­man of Cy­ber­Se­cu­rity Malaysia, an agency un­der the for­mer Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy and In­no­va­tion Min­istry (now known as the En­ergy, Tech­nol­ogy, Sci­ence, Cli­mate Change and En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry).

He de­scribed his role as chal­leng­ing and in­ter­est­ing. He said he has al­ways been pas­sion­ate about se­cu­rity is­sues, rang­ing from in­ter­nal and bi­lat­eral se­cu­rity as well as com­mon bor­der be­tween coun­tries.

He said the cyber world was some­thing new and in­ter­est­ing to dive into.

“The cy­berspace must be shared by ev­ery­one. Ev­ery­one has a re­spon­si­bil­ity in se­cur­ing it for com­mon use and the good of mankind,” he said.

In June, Azumi was be­stowed the Pro­fes­sional Award 2018 for De­vel­op­ment of Pro­fes­sional Re­la­tions in In­for­ma­tion Se­cu­rity at the Ugra and Na­tional Fo­rum for In­for­ma­tion Se­cu­rity 2018 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Rus­sia.

It was the third time he at­tended the con­fer­ence, and the sec­ond time speak­ing in one of its ses­sions.

De­spite his cur­rent role, Azumi said his 41 years in the mil­i­tary had shaped his char­ac­ter.

“Dis­ci­pline and lead­er­ship by ex­am­ple are the two things that made me who I am to­day.

“I con­tinue to look up to my su­pe­ri­ors in the mil­i­tary as my role mod­els. They had set the best ex­am­ples.”

PIC BY ROSELA IS­MAIL

At 70, Cy­ber­Se­cu­rity Malaysia chair­man Gen­eral (Rtd) Tan Sri Mohd Azumi Mo­hamed says he has no in­ten­tion of stop­ping and will con­tinue to work as long as he can.

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