Security – when money matters

THE new Malaysian government took over, the first thing the rakyat clamoured for was reforms!

This was largely due to the rising cost of living and the purported scandals worth billions in taxpayers money.

In response, the government set up the Council of Eminent People which are, by and large, made up of economists. The first line-up of ministers were the Finance Minister and the Economics Affairs Minister to address the economic woes of the nation.

Soon, the guillotine fell. The first target was the repressive goods and services tax, then, excessively-hiked projects undertaken by the past government, highly paid political appointees, and several other scandalous issues that plagued the nation.

Institutional reforms are underway to rid the cancer of corruption and resuscitate the economic lifeline of the terminally ill nation. The message to the rakyat was that the economy of the country is now in safe hands and a new dawn is beginning to unfold.

The need for economic security largely contributed to the change in government and allayed the concerns of a restless nation.  

Pondering on the unfolding events makes us realise that in the digital age where information is power, the public is very aware of their surroundings and that the economy plays a vital role in shaping their destiny.

Therefore, public concerns are something that should not be ignored. Human security is to be viewed through the economic lens as most security issues are economically motivated.

In saying so, lets zoom out from a national context and look wider at geo-political issues. Whilst many argue that a strong military is needed to safeguard sovereignty, debt traps are dubious deals which have the potential to ruin a nation.

No military might can save us from that. Transnational Organised Crimes (TOC) are profit motivated and have economic tentacles which feed graft among law enforcement and judiciary official to stay in business. No amount of law enforcement assets can disrupt nor deter TOC if these are not checked.

Militant extremism raises funds through the gaps in the legal system to purchase weapons, explosives, and fund the movement of terrorists.

These funds are also needed to inspire/motivate terrorists. No amount of counter terrorism equipment can counteract these.

In stating the above, the need for better assets and competency of personnel in government agencies cannot be understated; however, the narrative on security may need to be adjusted.

Corporate governance must be enshrined with prudence as the mainstay of governance.

Security institutions must weigh between cost and value when going about their business. Attempts must be made to synergise efforts to address the root causes rather than addressing symptoms.

Counter graft measures must be strictly put in place and made a priority instead of just being given lip service.

The Anti Money Laundering, Anti Terrorism Financing and Proceeds from Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (Act 613)  is the best weapon to deter and check threats to human security. This Act is not well communicated as the Achilles Heel of graft.

Not just the economy but the stakeholders have to play a role as well. Community and private industry must be roped into the evolving security architecture.

Community Policing (COP), an old acronym for social enterprise in upholding the law, should be enhanced at the lowest community levels.

The use of social media should be leveraged upon for better community engagement for governance.

Private industries can assist in estimating the cost of threats to security, which includes risk premiums to underwriters when threats become high risks.

Enhancing public-private partnerships in security can better contribute to focussed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects.   

In the attempt to identify interests in a certain area of concern, one should recognise vulnerabilities within the interests and the associated risks. Mitigation should be comprehensive and in case risks cannot be mitigated, consequence management should be in place.

When these are not appreciated, then the danger of being responsive instead of being preventive will undermine public confidence.

Government agencies should realise that in the age of austerity, the main focus towards peace and stability would be better addressed through sustainable development and sustainable environment programmes and that practical policies allow the government to better deliver their services to the general public.

Funds required for these are much needed to develop structures that support sustainability than purely an arms race or state-of-the-art weaponry that will gradually depreciate in time.

Whilst institutional reforms are becoming the order of the day, strict enforcement of the rule of law, prudent spending and safeguarding the economy is when and where money matters.– Bernama

* Capt. (R) Martin A. Sebastian formerly of  RMN is a Senior Fellow and Centre Head, Centre for Maritime Security and Diplomacy, Maritime Institute of Malaysia, a national maritime policy think tank in Kuala Lumpur shares his views on when and where money matters when comes to sovereignty and security.    

(This commentary is the personal view of the writer and does not necessarily reflect Bernama's or’ stand on what's mentioned by the writer.