An HD Submission
The following is an extract, the main text, from one of Barry Fleming's submissions to the eight-man Committee on the Grants of Honours, Decorations and Medals made on the 31st October 2005
Committee on the Grants of Honours, Decorations and Medals
The Pingat Jasa Malaysia
I wish to submit to the Committee on the Grants of Honours, Decorations and Medals (the HD Committee) my reasons for contending that the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM) should be recommended for acceptance.
I am writing to you as an ex-British soldier who served in Malaysia during the period of eligibility covered by the above medal which has been offered to eligible Commonwealth personnel by the Malaysian government, subject to recommendation by your Committee and acceptance by the Government.
I understand the basis for British Medals Policy and I support that policy. It has for many years protected the integrity of awards accepted and worn by British citizens. But it is precisely in that context that I suggest that acceptance of the award of the PJM would not contradict that policy, and I contend that acceptance of the medal should be recommended by the HD committee so that it may be both accepted and worn.
I contend that the PJM should be recommended for acceptance and I make the following points in support of that contention (again, in no priority order):
The PJM is a Unique Award - The medal is being offered by the King and Government of Malaysia in acknowledgement of the role of Commonwealth citizens in the fight to protect that country’s freedom over a protracted period. No other medal has been issued to cover the same service or operational objectives as those defined for the PJM.
Length of Period of Eligibility - The service to which the PJM refers lasted some ten years. That service was necessarily ongoing and exceeded the eligibility term for the General Service Medal (GSM). Most British service personnel served in the region for two and a half to three years - many returned on a second tour. My clear recollection is that the service to which the PJM refers, and the operations that were involved, did not finish on the 12th June 1965 when eligibility for the General Service Medal clasp “Malay Peninsula” for forces on the mainland ended, nor on the 11th August 1966 when eligibility for the General Service Medal clasp “Borneo” ended. Operations on the mainland continued for over a year after June 1965. I endorse the Malaysian Government’s view that there was a ‘cooling off’ period through to December 1966 during which time activity subsided.
Nature of Operations - I submit that the service to which the PJM refers, including the Internal Security operations, were necessarily ongoing - and were successful not only because of the professionalism of the forces involved, but also because of the subtle way the operations were sensitively carried out. It was critical not to alienate the Malaysian people by employing, for example, aggressive short term tactics. The relatively ‘quiet’ and low-key nature of the operations was part of the deliberate methodology to achieve success, and the fact that there were few incidents that attracted headlines and even fewer casualties on all sides should not be used as a reason to consider those operations as not deserving of recognition by way of a medal. Patrols continued, observation posts manned, and Operating Procedures provided for live ammunition to be issued and used. Forces on the mainland were necessarily on a ‘warlike’ footing through to December 1966.
Recognising Service for All - The scope and period of eligibility for the PJM will specifically enable those not eligible for other medals to have some recognition for their service in Malaysia. I refer in particular, but not exclusively, to those who served on the peninsular after June 1965 who are not eligible for the GSM with clasp “Malay Peninsula”.
The Commonwealth Spirit - The PJM is an award from one Commonwealth country to other Commonwealth countries and exemplifies what the Commonwealth Spirit is all about. The medal should be accepted on that basis. Rejection of the medal would be to make a statement that Britain considers itself apart from, and aloof from, the rest of the Commonwealth and would surely not encourage relationships with a Commonwealth country that has made the offer in good faith and after appropriate internal consultation.
Effects of Rejection - The PJM has been accepted by other Commonwealth countries with medal policies essentially as stringent as British policy. If the British were to reject the medal it would be to spurn the King, Government and people of Malaysia, and those Commonwealth countries that have accepted the medal.
The War on Terrorism - This medal is being offered by a predominantly Muslim country in acknowledgement of one long fight against terrorism - one that succeeded. I contend that, particularly in the current climate, our country should embrace their acknowledgement in the knowledge that we shall need their support in the future (and certainly for longer than the period covered by the PJM) in our, and their, war on terror.
Australian and New Zealand Acceptance - Whilst the acceptance by The Queen, as recommended by the Commonwealth Ministers of Australia and New Zealand, does not create a precedent for Britain, the background to acceptance by those countries is worthy of note. If you refer to proceedings in the Australian Senate (e.g. 17th June 1997) and House of Representatives (e.g. 24th November 1997) you will see a clear demonstration of Australia’s determination to rigorously apply a medals policies in key areas similar to those of the UK. In the example referred to, and despite intense lobbying, the Australian Government would not accept an instance of double-medalling in respect of its own Australian Service Medal. However, they were subsequently advised that the PJM could be accepted on the basis that it did not conflict with its strict medals policy. I contend that the same recommendation can be made by your Committee.
Mutual Regard and Support - The PJM has been accepted by Australia and New Zealand in the circumstances referred to elsewhere in this submission. As a result, their eligible personnel are able to wear the medal. Those same countries, as so often in the past and always at great cost, continue to support this country and to fight for freedom beside British citizens. It is not justifiable to deny the British the right to the same level of acknowledgement or to deny them the right to wear the same medal for the same service to a Commonwealth country.
The Gurkha Contribution - The Gurkhas made a distinguished contribution to the service that the PJM seeks to recognise. Through no fault of their own they are under siege both at home and abroad. Many will say, and as a contributor to the Gurkha Welfare Trust I include myself, that they and their families do not yet receive adequate recognition by way of pensions for their valiant service over so many years. I can remember the reaction both here and in the Falklands when it was announced that the Gurkhas were to be deployed there. Their impact, value, and loyalty to the UK and the Commonwealth cannot be overstated. They continue their loyal service even today. In recommending acceptance of the PJM, you will enable these proud and loyal soldiers to receive the acknowledgement they so richly deserve.
Double-Medalling - Double-medalling is a reason given for not recommending an award and the Arctic Convoy Emblem is an example of the application of this policy (in the context that double-medalling would have resulted because the operations referred to were specifically catered for in the award of the Atlantic Star). But I would contend that this policy does not apply in the case of the PJM. The scope of the PJM covers both service and timescales outside the eligibility rules for the General Service Medal with clasps “Malaya”, “Malay Peninsula”, and “Borneo” and therefore this is not a case of double-medalling.
Retrospective Awards - I contend that your Committee should not judge this to be a retrospective and belated award. The reason given for rejecting awards on this basis is that your Committee “cannot put itself in the place of the Committee which made the original decision and which would have been able to take account of the views of the Government and of other interested parties at the time of the decision” (source: The Veterans Agency). I accept that reasoning. But in the case of the PJM and its sponsors and its scope of eligibility, no earlier Committee or Government or other interested party has been involved in making, or not making, a decision. The Government of Malaysia announced the award in 2004 based upon their very recent deliberations (and you have ready access to their representatives if you have questions to ask about those deliberations), and only after discussion with those involved in their struggle between 1957 and 1966. The Committee would be making a recommendation on a recent case, not a belated one, and it has access to all the parties involved in making the offer and to other interested parties.
Reconsideration of Awards for Events more than Five Years Ago - I understand that your Committee “will not reconsider cases that took place more than five years ago”. This case has not been considered before and so, by definition, cannot be subject to ‘reconsideration’ and, in any event, the origins of the decision to make the award are recent. For that reason, and for similar reasons to those stated in paragraph 12. above, it is my contention that acceptance of the PJM does not conflict with British Medal Policy in this respect.
GSM with clasp “Suez Canal Zone” - I contend that the basis on which this medal was recommended (i.e. that the award, being made over 50 years after the event, should be seen as a one-off in the context of the retrospective and belated awards policy) does not invalidate a recommendation for the PJM - in fact I contend that it reinforces the case for accepting the PJM. In the Suez Canal Zone case, there was doubt as to whether proper consideration had been given at the time (in the 1950s) to an award being made. The absence of any certainty on that point enabled your Committee to recommend acceptance without conflicting with policy. In the case of the PJM we can be absolutely certain that no previous consideration has been given to the medal in the context of its scope. Neither of the two GSMs was awarded in direct relation to the specific service that the PJM seeks to acknowledge.
A Medal not a Keepsake - The Kuwait Liberation Medal and the Saudi Arabian version thereof can only be accepted as 'keepsakes' by British citizens (with some exceptions in the latter case) - and I understand why. Those medals were offered by foreign governments in relation to a campaign specified as being in respect of the 'Liberation' of a foreign country. In the case of the Saudi medal, the award was offered by the government of a foreign country which was not the foreign country in which 'Liberation' operations were carried out. Furthermore, that specific campaign service has been recognised in the award of the Gulf Medal 1990–91, in the form of the medal only, or with one of the two clasps. I contend that the PJM is being offered on fundamentally different grounds. It is offered by a Commonwealth country, for service within its territory, to Commonwealth personnel, for service that does not relate to 'campaign' service per se but which is of greater scope, and for service over a period of time not covered by any other award.
Political Influences - The "40th Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War Medal" (relating to WW2 in the then USSR) was originally refused in the mid-1980s but, after continued lobbying, permission was granted in 1994 for the medal to be received and worn. I understand the point that it was accepted as an ‘anniversary’ and not a ‘campaign’ medal. Nevertheless, this is a clear indication of the nature of political considerations that are taken into account - the award being accepted "in the light of changed circumstances in Russia since the medal was first issued, the improvement in relations between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation …” (source: The Veterans Agency). In the context of that award and the 'official' explanation given for it being accepted, it would be invidious to reject an offer from a Commonwealth country, particularly as the PJM is in respect of the acknowledgement of Commonwealth support the success of which maintained stability not only in Malaysia but also in the region generally.
Supporting Malaysia - Malaysia was not part of SEATO in the 1960s and, when we needed to have forces and bases in that country in furtherance of a SEATO role (Laos and Thailand’s security in the 1960s was of paramount importance, particularly in the context of the Vietnam situation at that time), we agreed to Malaysia’s terms for the presence of certain forces in their country, i.e. the forces were to be available and were to be used to protect Malaysia from threats against their country. This they did through to the end of 1966 with consummate success, giving Britain and others a base from which to deter threats against Laos and Thailand. Having agreed and actively implemented that arrangement in order to achieve our own objectives, it would be difficult to understand how any acknowledgement by Malaysia of that service could be rejected.
In this letter I have endeavoured to express why I believe that the Pingat Jasa Malaysia should be recommended for acceptance, setting out issues that I would ask your Committee to take into account when considering the matter.
In accepting the award, Britain would be recognising the desire of a Commonwealth nation to acknowledge the support that Britain and its Commonwealth allies gave to it over a protracted period of time. The success that was achieved by those who served in Malaya and Borneo laid the foundations for Malaysia to achieve the regional stability and economic prosperity it enjoys today - and we benefit directly both in terms of what we get out of the emerging global economy and in terms of the security of the region.
During these current difficult and dangerous times, what better opportunity do we have to demonstrate to the world that it really is possible for nations to work together to achieve success in the fight against terror, however long that may take.
I remain, Sir,Yours faithfully,
Berkshire, UK, 31st October 2005
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Subject=London Daily Telegraph.
Labour MPs' fury over 'loans for peerages'
By Toby Helm, Chief Political Correspondent
(Filed: 13 03 2006)
Tony Blair faced a backlash from his MPs after it was revealed that Labour had tried to conceal millions of pounds of financial aid from multi-millionaire supporters who were subsequently nominated for peerages.
I wonder if the committee that they went to was the Honours and Decorations one?
(JSF, Australia - contact details supplied)
[Ed: Clearly there is a distinction in Government between an award won in battle fighting terrorism (not worth anything and is an embarrassment to everyone) and an award won by dint of making surreptitious loans to fund a Government none of whose members (and we choose our words carefully on this site) have ever worn a uniform or put their lives on the line for others (worth the award of a wearable ermine). Click here to see the Telegraph article]