By Dhivehi Dharieh
Here are a few points for the Government that takes oath on 11th November 2008 to consider regarding the defence establishment of the country. First I would like to outline 3 points which should be amended into the Armed Forces Act.
The first point of note is to set out a fixed term of duty for the post of the Chief of Defence Force (CDF). The post's duties and responsibilities are well laid out in the law. The addition of a fixed term for it is essential to ensure the flow of promotion effectively among senior ranks and secure the position from being dominated by a single person for an undue period of time. The duration of the fixed term could be set after looking at those of other military bodies and adjusted to suit Maldivian environment; the standard term found in most countries is 3 years. And also the person holding the post should be limited to serving a single term of duty.
In connection with the first point, the person holding the position of the Chief of Defence Force would need to be exempt from the clause in the law regarding the compulsory retirement age for military personnel. The reason for this is to ensure the stability of the term of duty for the position, thereby giving the person holding the position an unhindered 3 years to put policies and strategies into effect. The lack of this provision would result in the rapid turnover of personnel holding the post, thus depriving the force of a stable and effective leadership.
Thirdly is to lay down a provision requiring that appointments to the posts of CDF / Vice CDF are done with the approval of the parliament. To ensure a faster and secure process through the parliament the approval process can be set to be carried out in the security committee of the parliament without going to the main parliament floor. The reasoning behind this rule is to ensure protection from politically motivated appointments to the senior positions. This would serve to keep the defence force apolitical. This is a standard procedure followed in numerous other countries as well.
Now I would like to offer some thoughts about the leadership of the defence establishment. This might be more relevant in case of a change in the current government. Looking first at the highest defence establishment post is that of the Minister of Defence. The person for this post should be a mature respectable person who preferably has a background in foreign / international relations or the legal sector. An ideal candidate in the opposition would be Mr. Shaheed Zaki.
Next is the post of the Chief of Defence Force. The incumbent, Maj. General Mohamed Zahir has served in that capacity for a number of years, so with a change in government he should preferably be retired honorably and if he wishes to continue serving the government, assigned to a civil post such as that of ambassador. Looking at the potential candidate for the post, the person in the current situation needs to be a well respected officer both in public as well as within the defence force. He would also need to be a professional soldier who has proven his capability. As such a clear choice stands out in the MNDF which is that of Brigadier Moosa Jaleel. There have been some views published regarding assigning Brig. Jaleel to the post of the Minister. But since he's well below military retirement age and his skills, capability and leadership are mostly needed at the position of the Chief of Defence Force to bring about the necessary changes to the defence forces, he should be utilized in that post.
Lastly the orientation of MNDF should be changed for it to focus on external defence and security instead of internal security. The MNDF should be called upon on internal security missions only as a last resort and with parliament approval. This would require the capabilities of the police service being enhanced. The MNDF should focus its resources and capabilities in the area of civil defence such as Coast Guard and Fire and Rescue.
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