Senate Questions on Notice 9 – RCB Recognition of Service

Senator Brian Burston  (PHONP) presented Questions On Notice re RCB submissions to the Defence Minister, Sen, Marisse Payne on 15th December 2017. The answers from the Department of Defence were provided by Sen. Mathais Cormann (in the Minister’s absence) in the Senate in February 2018

There are ten questions and answers. Each day hereafter we will post one of those questions and the answer  with our response to the answer.

Question 9 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)

Why was Minister Billson’s determination to Grade RCB as “hazardous service” in 2006 not implemented prior to, or after, the change of government in 2007? 


Answer 9. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne

As a result of a number of representations on 18th September 2007 the them Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence declared that the service of Rifle Company Butterworth should be retrospectively reclassified as either hazardous or non-warlike service.

In 2009 it was found that the instruments had omitted RAAF security personnel. contained incorrect dates, omitted key references and were not registered in the Federal Register of Legislative instruments. In response to the continuing campaign conducted by ex RCB members seeking war-like service, a new review from first principles comprehensively investigated RCB service since inception, locating Government files and documents that were never considered in the 2007 review. 

The 2011 review was not supportive of the classification of RCB services as anything other than peacetime service.

On 21 March 2012 the then Parliamentary Secretary for Defence recommended that the nature of all ADF service at Butterworth should remain as peacetime from 12 August 1966 to the present. A detailed explanation of this decision was provided to the Chairman of the RCB Review Group in a letter dated 19 May 2012. This decision is consistent with the long-standing Government determination that the nature of service of all ADF service at the end of confrontation is peacetime.

RCB Review Group Response to the Answer 9.


The Government response claims that Defence conducted a comprehensive review in 2009 (which it failed to include the RCB Review Group in), claiming to find new material not considered in their 2007 determination.  Why were we not notified and included in that Review?

Unsurprisingly, this led to the same result – non-recommendation of war-like service. The overturning of ex-Minister’s Billson’s decision, because it had not been processed, was a very opportune chance for the government (again on ‘advice’ from Defence), to ‘situate the appreciation’, therefore nullifying a Ministerial decision through an administrative fiat. This latest response to the Question again is another case of stubborn refusal to right a wrong.


This is the first of our e-news updates. It aims to keep you informed of the facts and progress towards our RCB service objective to be recognised as warlike. The Government maintains the service is peacetime despite overwhelming evidence discovered and presented by us to Governments that proves a deliberate deception.


RCB E-news april 2018 UPDATE final 20180408Apr

RCB’s Claim for Warlike Service Classification 1970-1989 – The Air Force Association calls on the PM for an independent examination.

In its letter to the Prime Minister, The Air Force Association believes “there is a compelling argument supporting an upgrade of the company’s service classification…. Consequently, …. the Air Force Association strongly requests the RCB’s deployment be examined by an independent body to determine the correct service classification.”

Letter Prime Minister – Rifle Company Butterworth Malaysia

Claims Defence lied to Riverina veterans refuted

The Department of Defence has hit back at claims it lied to former soldiers across the Riverina.

It comes after army veteran Bob Bak said the government had incorrectly labelled the military service of almost 9000 men during an overseas operation.

But, reports containing details the operation at RAAF Butterworth Air Base between 1970 and 1989, have since revealed this was inaccurate.

As a result, veterans say they have been stripped of a deserved “war-like service” recognition and its associated entitlements. They have since called for a public inquiry into the matter.

Despite these claims, the Department of Defence last week said Australian Defence Force service at Butterworth had been examined across several independent reviews, that found it to be peace-time service.

“Defence has responded to a number of claims for reclassification of Rifle Company Butterworth service,” a statement read.

“These claims were investigated through extensive research of available records … and found personnel were not engaged in duty relating to warlike operations.”

A department spokesperson said the role of the company was to provide a ground presence, to conduct training and to assist, if required, in the protection of assets.

“Unless authorised, (the company) was not to be involved in local civil disturbances or … security operations outside (base),” the spokesperson said.


 RCB Review Group’s comments on Defence’s rebuttal above and previous rebuttals

Our rebuttal of Defence statements made by the then Minister Stuart Robert and his staff at the House of Representatives Petition Committee in 2014 can be seen here

The Government did not respond to that document

Following that, two letters were sent to PM Turnbull seeking his personal intervention and if declined then to appoint an independent (of Government)  inquiry. Neither was  given.

We re-presented  all of the entire evidence  discovered after 2011 to the Defence Department for their consideration. We challenged their response that there was no new evidence since 2011.   Another deception

In our submissions we asked to meet with the Ministers’ officers to discuss  the new evidence supporting our claim. We are still waiting.

Now that the MPs are this week back in their electorates it is a good time to visit them. We expect that the Defence Department will have prepared a letter for the MPs to respond to the letters we sent to  all the MPs and Senators.  Send us a copy of their letter please so we can guide your reply.
Robert Cross

OPINION – New Minister has a Job to Do

TOWNSVILLE should be a priority destination for recently appointed Veterans’ Affairs Minister Michael McCormack.

McCormack represents the NSW seat Riverina for the National Party, with his electorate office in Wagga Wagga. Wagga is perhaps best known as the location of the army’s recruit training battalion at Kapooka, also known as Home of the Soldier.

Since McCormack is now also Minister for Defence Personnel he is ideally placed with local RAAF and army personnel to understand the issues faced by itinerant defence families.
He should bring to his dual portfolios some sympathy for the plight of those serving and those who have left the service for whatever reason.

While the affable Dan Tehan made the right noises, many veterans remain disappointed with his inaction on issues such as the ADF’s flawed mefloquine and tafenoquine antimalarial drug trials. This is a major issue for those affected.

Townsville has a significant concentration of veterans suffering the adverse consequences of mefloquine and tafenoquine poisoning yet DVA seemingly on ADF advice insists there is no problem.

To be fair to Tehan, any minister depends on the advice of specialists in the ministries they head.
The same applies to ministerial staff who often believe their prime function is to protect the reputation of their minister and the Government rather than offer frank and fearless advice on behalf of affected constituents.
When that advice is flawed or biased then a minister’s advice is equally biased and flawed.

McCormack could make an early mark by listening to people like Townsville-based veterans John Caligari and Ray Martin who continue to fight for the soldiers they once led, understanding command is a lifelong responsibility.

He should also talk with the wives and partners who struggle to understand why someone they love can return so damaged from operational service and who are then expected to pick up the pieces to keep their relationships and families intact.

McCormack could also make a mark by insisting faceless bureaucrats explain why awards should be granted to those who feel their service has gone unrecognised rather than accept their flawed advice as to why they should not.

Yes Minister


RARA endorses RCB service claim as warlike

In a letter to the PM in January 2016, the RARA National President Michael von Berg MC OAM endorsed the RCB’s claim for warlike service. ” ….it is our contention that the facts surrounding the reasons for the RCB deployment has been a subterfuge to overcome the Labor Government’s dilemma to apply its electoral mandate to return all overseas troops and yet retain a strategic presence at Butterworth. This was achieved by deception to disguise the deployment for training purposes to the Australian public”

Read the full text.
20160121 RARC letter to the PM

RCB Website Live

Welcome to the RCB’s website

It is the communications control centre for the RCB Review Group’s management of Operation “Exposure” which aims to have the Government declare RCB service as warlike or failing that to appoint an independent (of Government) public inquiry into the rightful recognition of the nature of RCB military service.

The Reference menu provides the time-line of and access to all our submissions with evidence, the Government’s  replies and our responses to them. Check it out here

We encourage your support by direct engagement in having your say direct to us and to Federal MPs/Senator on all matters associated with RCB service. If you have additional evidence to that already revealed here then please tell us.

Rifle Company Butterworth – Warning Order “OPERATION EXPOSURE”






Following Governments’ failure to agree to RCB Review Group’s legitimate claim for recognition of their service 1970-1989 as warlike,  the  Group  intends to take further action to secure an independent judicial enquiry.

All RCB  persons who served at that time are encouraged to support the RCB Review Group

Core History Paper – A case for recognition during the SME V3


Engaging Southeast Asia? Labor’s Regional Mythology and Australia’s Military Withdrawal from Singapore and Malaysia, 1972–1973

The decision in 1973 to withdraw Australian forces from Malaysia and Singapore constitutes a neglected but defining episode in the evolution of Australian postwar diplomacy against the backdrop of the Cold War.

A detailed examination of this episode sheds interesting light on Australian foreign policy from 1972 to 1975, the years when Gough Whitlam of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) served as prime minister. The Whitlam government’s policy in Southeast Asia was not as much of a watershed as the secondary literature suggests.


This is an important article that reinforces the reasons for the strategic deployment of the Rifle Company Butterworth

A first-hand view of fighting the communist terrorists — Hussaini Abdul Karim August 30, 2011 AUG 30

  1. A first-hand view of fighting the communist terrorists — Hussaini Abdul Karim, August 30, 2011
  2. AUG 30 — A week before we received our Agong‟s commission, which was to be held on April 14, 1972, all Royal Military College (RMC), Sungei Besi, Kuala Lumpur graduating officer cadets of Short Service Commission Intake 20 and Regular Commission Intake 14 were required to make our choices on which corps in the army we wished to serve.Tensions were very high among us even though we were all fully trained and equipped and were fully fit and ready to fight the communist terrorists (CTs) face-to-face in both West and East Malaysia. The training we went through was very tough. We were all very anxious to know where each of us was to be posted to, especially those of us who had made our choices to join the Infantry, Artillery or the Reconnaissance Corps in the army, all commonly known as the “Fighting Units” of the army. We were repeatedly briefed and reminded about the communist atrocities and how ruthless they were and part of our training was to get us all psyched up to defeat them, our national enemy and a threat to our developing nation. We had to stop them from destroying our country and our people to ensure a prosperous and peaceful future for all Malaysians.

Hussaini Abdul Karim

The writer receiving his Agong’s commission as Lt Muda (2nd Lieutenant, Malaysian Artillery Corps) from Sultan Abdul Halim at the RMC Sungei Besi on April 14, 1972.

I still remember very well the nervous smile of Officer Cadet Elias Ramli, a vertically challenged but stout fellow from Kangar, who was to be posted to 1 Ranger Regiment in Sarawak, the hotbed of the CTs at that time, as well as the sour face of Officer Cadet A. Rahman Koya, a tall and dapper fellow from Rantau Panjang, who was joining another Ranger battalion, also based in Sarawak. Officer Cadet Sallehuddin from Penggerang, Johor, who joined the Royal Malay Regiment, was another graduating cadet who I noticed was feeling very nervous. About an equal number of officers from our graduating class were sent to units operating near the borders of Malaysia/Thailand and Malaysia/Kalimantan to join the respective fighting units we were posted to. Two hundred graduating cadets were posted to the fighting units and the remaining number of newly-commissioned officers was posted to the services and administrative units. I was posted to the 3rd Artillery Regiment in Kuching, which was our temporary base and I was there for just over one year. My parents were less than happy when I told them about it. My second stint there, for about 11⁄2 years, was between early 1974 and mid-1975. Our permanent base was in Kamunting, Taiping.

Lt Muda Elias Ramli, Lt Muda A. Rahman Koya and Lt Muda Sallehuddin as well as a few others did not enjoy the privilege of the four-day break we were given between the time after accepting our commission as 2nd lieutenants and joining our respective units. They had to pack up immediately and were flown or sent by train or Land Rover trucks to Kuching and to other destinations like Ipoh, Sungei Petani, and Bentong that afternoon itself upon completing the passing-out parade. They were to join their colleagues to fight in the country‟s jungles due to a shortage of officers, especially in the infantry units, at the front lines in both theatres.

On April 15, the very first day of active service, we received the very sad news of the first casualty, Lt Muda Sallehuddin, then only 18 years old; the youngest to be commissioned, died after drowning in the Rejang River in Sibu during one of the pursuits of terrorists in his unit‟s area of operations. Over the years there were many more casualties, all young men, who were killed, injured, paralysed, maimed or crippled fighting the communist CTs. Some died or were injured from gunshot wounds or

accidents and some from air crashes after the Nuri helicopters they were in were shot at, all fighting for the country to wipe out the communists. A classmate at RMC Cadet Wing, Lt Fuad Chong from the Engineers Corps, had to have one of his legs amputated after badly injuring it upon stepping on a booby trap in an operation to clear booby traps set up by the CTs in the Perak jungle. My very good friends, Trooper Suandy, a soldier from the elite Commando Unit (MSSU) and Lt Muda (U) Wee Kong Beng, a co-pilot of a Nuri helicopter, died in one of the crashes with seven others including the aircraft‟s captain. In one of the major operations which I was involved in, the Bentong airstrip was even busier than Subang Airport with various types of aircraft such as the Caribou, Cessna, Nuri and Alouette regularly landing and taking off every day.

One officer from our batch, Lt Muda Basri, an infantry officer from 4 Ranger Regiment, was awarded the Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) for bravery after successfully leading his platoon to defeat a group of CTs in 1973. This guy had burning red eyes and he always was full of spirit; though he was among the quieter ones at RMC, from his determination and passion shown when competing in team contests and games during our training sessions, I knew that one day he would be a hero. Another officer who was also a classmate by the name of Basri, also from the Royal Engineers Corps, a very affable fellow, was also awarded the PGB and he has since retired with the rank of Lt-Colonel.

Life in the army then was very tough and in my case, I spent most of my active military service in the country‟s jungles in Sarawak, Sabah, Perak, Kedah and Pahang, sometimes at a stretch for as long as six months. Of course, there were many like me. We young officers were still bachelors and were considered by our superiors that leaving us in the jungle for a long stretch of time didn‟t really matter. The married officers who had families had shorter stints. Sometimes, I did feel angry with myself, with a tinge of regret for joining the army instead of one of the universities like many of my classmates who completed pre-university did, and be able to sleep on very comfortable Dunlopillo latex foam mattresses, enjoy good food, had girlfriends and enjoyed the bright city lights.

We slept on makeshift tents created using our rubber “poncos” from branches of small trees and depending on the duty roster, we either slept during the day or at night. Sometimes, when there was not enough time, we just slept on the ground with the ponco used as a ground sheet. As we were always on the move, the tents had to be dismantled and the area cleared after every short stay of between two and three days. Our food was the dry rations supplied to us and sometimes, when we camped near rivers, we did manage to get fish and fresh vegetables. There were, among the soldiers, some very good cooks who were able to prepare delicious dishes from these fish, vegetables and some other fresh leaves eaten fresh like ulam. It was quite normal for us to camp on high ground near flowing rivers as the clean waters allowed us to bathe and do plenty of cleaning, cooking and washing. During the annual but short Hari Raya Aidilfitri periods, the food spread was quite large and we had lemang, ketupat, rendang and a good variety of kuih raya and that could last up to a week. Sometimes we found photos of young girls of about our age; they were volunteers who helped prepare the food packs who must have cheekily placed them in those packs just to cheer us up and that actually did the trick. However, morale of the soldiers was high and we were always supporting and comforting each other particularly when we received sad and devastating news about casualties and deaths of our friends and colleagues. Every time I heard news like these, I felt very angry, frustrated and most vengeful. I felt like, if I ever happened to encounter them, I would catch them, wring their necks until they could not breathe, hang them by their feet and make them suffer enough before shooting them. I had books and past newspapers delivered to me by my very considerate commanding officer, the late Maj-Gen Datuk Johan Hew, of and on and I read them all from cover to cover over and over again; including all the advertisements and notices, in the case of newspapers, until the next delivery. The news I read were sometimes a week old at best. Other reading materials included the Quran and some kitabs.

In one of the fire fights that I was involved, a supply convoy consisting of 12 vehicles escorted by a reconnaissance troop with Ferret scout cars and V-150 APCs was ambushed by CTs along the road flanked by sloping hills with thick undergrowth not very far from our Maong Gajah base camp in Kedah near Pedu Lake (before the dam was constructed) and very near to the Thai border. Casualties on our side were several and most of them were seriously injured but nobody was killed. The counter attack mounted by the RMR infantry company didn‟t come back with any captured or dead terrorists. My troops fired round after round of high explosive ammunition every night for the next three nights covering a very large area but there was still no captured or dead terrorists. Another

incident was near Kampung Lallang in the Sungei Siput area in Perak where a small group of CTs, three of them actually, was sighted on a small hill and the field commander ordered us to cordon the area with a two-layer, shoulder-to-shoulder, man-to-man ring surrounding the „target‟ with the aim to capture the enemies alive instead of killing them. When we closed in on the target, the enemies were nowhere to be seen and we were all puzzled. We were very sure that the sighting, based on our intelligence report which was categorised as A1, was accurate. That led to many theories and one was that they escaped via a tunnel somewhere in the jungle and the other was that these people had special powers and could hide behind leaves. We searched but did not find any tunnel. Many of us however, believed in the latter theory.

An artillery troop equipped with 105mm Howitzers in the „position ready‟ position. Firing starts upon orders received from the gun position officer (GPO).

The mode of operations those days required each infantry brigade involved in the search and destruction of CTs in both East Malaysia and the peninsula to have one three-gun 105mm Howitzer- equipped artillery troop to flush out CTs from their hideouts and we were engaged in many harassing fire missions and fired hundreds of rounds of high explosive ammunition, normally at night, at all the areas suspected to be CT hideouts but we never knew if there were any casualties among them. However, all the time, search-and-destroy operations carried out after the guns ceased firing rendered zero findings. Our jungles are very thick with severely undulating grounds and many meandering big and small rivers and it was very difficult and dangerous to carry out search-and-destroy operations. The situation was a lot worse when it rained and we had to face inclement weather quite regularly. The air force also assisted in the operations either by providing airlifting operations using Sikorsky (Nuris) helicopters to fly in the troops, guns and supplies to the designated gun positions in the heart of our jungles in Perak, Kedah, Pahang, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak, which were not accessible by road or foot, as well as “Eye Observation Posts” (Eye OPs), an air reconnaissance artillery gun control operations using the smaller Alouette helicopters. Communication was by means of fairly obsolete equipment and the PRK 55 mobile signal units. Most of the times we took turns to crank the batteries by hand continuously to provide power for the signal equipment because communication had to be maintained uninterrupted for 24 hours every day. Despite the shortcomings, we still managed it. Orientation was assisted by accurate topographical maps, compasses, rulers and protractors.

Only the CPM members would know the number of casualties they suffered.

In all of our further and advanced training sessions, courses, briefings and debriefings, we were told and reminded that our enemies were members of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and their two illegal organisations viz the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), a group formed for their armed struggle, and the Malayan National Liberation League (MNLL). Another organisation was the CPM Marxist-Leninist Faction (CPMML) which was responsible for the constitutional struggle and certain aspects of the illegal or “militant” struggle and there was also the Malayan Communist Youth League (MCYL) recruited from youths aged between 15 and 30. In East Malaysia, we were fighting the North Kalimantan Communist Party (which had no direct links with the Malayan Communist Party), an offshoot of the clandestine communist organisation that was waging a guerilla campaign against the government. Names like Chin Peng, the CPM secretary-general, Rashid Mydin, Abdullah CD, Wahi Annuar, Shamsiah Fakih, Siu Cheong alias Ah Soo, P.V. Sharma, Ah Hoi alias Chen Jui, Sun Chek, Lim Chau, Soh Chee Peng alias Shi Meng and Musa Ahmad were regularly mentioned.

They were not fighting to liberate the country, which they claimed, but their aim was to form a communist republic to be known as the Malayan Peoples Republic and anyone who went against them, regardless of race or religion, shall be killed. We lost many soldiers, mostly young Malay soldiers (there were very few Chinese, Indian and people of other races in the army then), and we also received news that some civilians were also killed. I also remember reading a report about the communists in the early „50s, not long after the Japanese surrendered, and the „60s, where killings were also carried out in towns like Muar, Kluang, Ipoh and Sungei Petani, among others. In 1971, the then-IGP Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim was assassinated at the junction of Lorong Weld and Jalan Tun Perak Kuala Lumpur on June 4, 1974; his driver was also killed and about 16 months later another senior police officer, Perak CPO Tan Sri Khoo Chong Kong, was gunned down together with his driver at midday in Ipoh. These assassinations were carried out by members of the 1st Mobile Squad of the CPMML, a squad formed to carry out assassinations. Two other planned assassinations of the then-Chief of Armed Forces Staff, General Tan Sri Ibrahim Ismail (now Tun), and the then Singapore Commissioner of Police, Tan Sri Tan Teik Khim, were thwarted after two CPMML members were arrested and sentenced to death for the murders they committed earlier.

An artillery troop command post with the gun position officer (GPO) giving firing orders using a megaphone.

The communists were trained, both physically and mentally, to be brutal, ruthless and unsympathetic they‟d kill just anyone whom they wanted to. Killings to them were a duty and it was like food for them and they did it without feeling even an iota of guilt.

God save us if they were to take over and rule this country.

I was promoted to Captain in 1976 and left the army in 1979 to continue with my studies and to pursue other interests after feeling fully satisfied and my ambition fulfilled and that I have done my duty and contributed in whatever miniscule way to the continued peace and prosperity of our most beloved country. In my relatively short tenure in the army, I served the 1st Brigade, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Brigade, 4th Brigade, 5th Brigade, 6th Brigade, 8th Brigade and Rascom and my last attachment was with the 3rd Field Ambulance in Kinrara, Selangor.

All my former classmates at RMC, Sungei Besi April 1972 graduating class have now retired and many made the army or the air force their career and held very senior ranks and positions and they are my very close friends such as Lt-Gen Tan Sri Wan Abu Bakar, Royal Malay Regiment (former director of military intelligence), Lt-Gen Datuk Seri Bashir, RMAF (former Deputy Chief of the Air Force), Maj-Gen Datuk Mokhtar Parman, Royal Artillery Regiment (former director of training), Maj- Gen Datuk Che Yahya, RMAF (former Chief of Staff, RMAF) and Maj-Gen Datuk Che‟ Hasni, Royal Armoured Corp (former director of army training). The others held ranks of no less than Lt-Colonel.

No, for whatever reasons, we must never allow Chin Peng or any of the still surviving members of the CPM to return to this country. They are all traitors!

We, former members of the security forces, can still feel the hurt and pain, both physically and emotionally, whenever we recall the terrifying years dealing with them.

Even though retired, we will take up weapons again and defend our country against any communist threats either by their members, supporters or sympathisers and I will be the first one to do that!

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.