We Ask 50 Questions
The following is the main text from a March 2006 paper submitted by Barry Fleming in which we raise fifty questions about the PJM recommendation. They are simple questions. They all arise from official statements. They are not designed to catch anybody out. They are designed to bring the issues into the public domain so that we can conclude this matter within an open and democratic environment.
While he accepts full responsibility for the content, he would like to make it clear that the submission represents knowledge accumulated from this, the PJM, web site and from all the informative posts that have been made by so many contributors better informed than him.
Any errors or omissions are his, though.
This document is long. We make no apologies for that, for it is the sheer weight of our argument that is so telling.
We hope you will have the patience to wade through this text to see just how wrong the recommendation was, and just how fundamental were the errors that were built into the decision making leading to the shameful withholding of the formal permission to wear the Pingat Jasa Malaysia.
So, with a strong coffee at the high port, here we go ...
This submission dated the 15th March 2006 is made by me, Barry Fleming (full address and contact details included) Email: barry@fight4thePJM.org.
I am an ex-soldier who served in Malaysia in the Intelligence Corps and I am eligible for the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (the "PJM").
With a number of other ex-servicemen, I am lobbying to receive permission to wear the medal - permission that has been withheld.
Since the 31st January Ministerial Statement (the "Statement") proclaiming acceptance of the PJM but the withholding of formal permission to wear the medal, we have concentrated on setting up a web site to gather opinions and to present our views to the public. We have constructed the web site at http://www.fight4thepjm.org ourselves. We have no political, commercial or organisational affiliations. The site is funded and produced by us – veterans who served Malaysia.
I have endeavoured to produce a succinct paper, but our case consists of many parts reflecting the unnecessarily complicated way the PJM has been dealt with by the Government and by the HD Committee. But I have restricted this paper to a succinct reference to the main points in the following format.
Synopsis of Our Case
Aims of this Submission
Format of this Submission
Ministerial Statement dated 31st January 2006
Cabinet Office Letter dated 2nd February 2006
Enclosures - Links to Documents and Supporting Evidence
Synopsis of Our Case
Our case is very simple - we have earned the medal and we want to be able to wear it with pride alongside our Commonwealth ex-comrades in arms:
The medal was offered by a Commonwealth country to eligible Commonwealth citizens including those of Australia and New Zealand who have accepted the award for unrestricted wear but formal permission for British citizens to wear their medal has been withheld (as promulgated in the Statement). We believe there is no tenable reason for that restriction to continue, nor for the discrimination that has been imposed upon the British Veterans.
Not only have the British veterans been singled out in respect of the 'wear' issue but the British Government dithered for a year before announcing their decision regarding the offer of this award (the Australian and New Zealand Governments made their decision within a couple of months) using the interval to re-negotiate the eligibility criteria resulting in quite different criteria for British citizens to those offered to rest of the Commonwealth.
It is our view that the HD Committee made a recommendation based upon an incorrect understanding of the double-medalling situation and an inappropriate application of the 5-year rule to a Commonwealth service medal that was not made uniquely to the UK and had been accepted by the other Commonwealth countries by the time the HD Committee sat to consider their recommendation.
As a result of this confusion, the Statement was issued erroneously, imposing discriminatory restrictions on those eligible for the PJM resulting in a deep rooted sense of injustice felt by those who served, and a clear snub to Malaysia.
We now have the position whereby Commonwealth ex-comrades in arms who carried out the same service but who are now civilians with no uniform code attaching to them have, for the same award, different eligibility criteria and different 'wear' permissions resulting in the anomaly that they may attend the same Remembrance Day or Anzac Day ceremonies, but the British will be the only ones without formal permission to wear the PJM. The discrimination is particularly apparent amongst those who now have dual citizenship
Aims of this Submission
I have four aims that reflect our overall objectives:
To obtain answers to a list of question, and
To achieve a review of the withholding of the right to wear the PJM and through that review
To achieve a review of the amended eligibility criteria, and
Formal permission to wear the medal.
Format of this Submission
Our case consists of a number of points arising from various sources but at this time I shall only deal with two - the Ministerial Statement and a Cabinet Office Letter I have received.
Bearing in mind that it is not we who have to justify the right to wear the medal but that it is for the decision-makers to explain why formal permission is being withheld and why they created divisive and troubling anomalies, I outline our case in sections based upon those two documents issued by the decision makers themselves.
As a result of the methodology of the format of this paper (each section based upon an official document), the issues and questions raised are not in any specific priority order - they are in the order they arise within each document.
A copy of the documents and supportive evidence is attached.
The Ministerial Statement of 31st January 2006
In this section I shall quote from the Ministerial Statement (1), offer our comments upon it, and then pose the questions to which we would like to have replies.
A. "The Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM) is a commemorative medal which the Government of Malaysia would like to award to eligible British citizens, for their service in Malaya or Malaysia between 31 August 1957 and 12 August 1966."
Commemorative or Service Medal
The statement refers to 'commemorative', the medal is called the Malaysian Service Medal and we see from other documents, for example the Cabinet Office letter dated 2 February 2006 (2), that it is also referred to as a medal for 'service' and, interestingly, there is an inference in that letter that the PJM is a foreign 'campaign medal'.
The Rules on Foreign Decorations as set out by the Defence Secretary in 2005 offer their own terminology in respect of 'foreign', 'foreign states', 'awards', 'medals', 'decorations', 'service' and 'commemorative' (3).
Question a): Which is it - commemorative or service or campaign service?
Question b): And what is the basis for defining it as such?
Question c): How is the medal referred to in the offer that contains the criteria set out by the Malaysian Government?
Eligible British citizens
The statement refers to an award to British citizens. Our understanding is that the PJM was offered to Commonwealth citizens, albeit each Government would have to make its own decision as to acceptance. We believe it is fundamental to acknowledge that this medal has not been offered to the British in isolation and therefore any decision should not be made in isolation but having due regard to the scope of the award to Commonwealth Nations for identical service (other than the British alone served in all operational zones throughout the period of the PJM).
By considering the PJM as being a purely British matter, the recommendation has divided nations and has divided citizens.
The PJM has 'divided' people. The Governor General of Australia, the Queen's Representative in Australia, has been personally presented with the Pingat Jasa Malaysia that he has earned (4). As an Australian he can wear his PJM. But can he do so as The Queen's representative, we wonder?
Gurkha soldiers, as always, provided gallant and loyal service during their service to Malaysia, earning a Victoria Cross in the process, but we have not been told whether they will be able to receive the medal, let alone whether they can wear it.
Question a): Why was the PJM considered as a British matter rather than as a Commonwealth matter?
Question b): Did the Committee consider the implications of an isolationist recommendation in so far as they were aware that other Commonwealth countries had already received the Queen's consent for their citizens to accept and wear the PJM?
Question c): Did the HD Committee or the Government consider the position of those who now have dual nationality whereby, amongst ex-comrades in arms who fought together under a Commonwealth banner, at Remembrance Day and Anzac Day only the British will not be able to wear the medal on their civilian clothes? If so, what were their reasons for specifically providing for this discrimination to primarily civilian citizens?
Question d): What are we to infer from the fact that HMG deferred the "Statement" until the day after The Governor-General of Australia was invested with the PJM by the Chief of the Malaysian Defence Force? Are we to assume that further procrastination was a deliberate decision taken at our expense in order to spare the blushes of the Queen's Representative in Australia?
Question e) Can the Queen's Representative in Australia wear his PJM on all occasions - unrestricted?
Question f) Will Gurkha soldiers be able to receive the PJM and, if so, will they have permission to wear it?
We understand that the British Government have re-negotiated the eligibility criteria for British citizens in order to make the award more restrictive and in order to impose on the Malaysians the British Government's wishes as to eligibility for the Malaysian award. Clearly, this is an untoward intrusion into the affairs of another nation, but it also creates more divisions within the Commonwealth - portraying to the world that the UK does not wish to be part of the Commonwealth on all fours with other countries.
The Statement refers to "service in Malaya or Malaysia between 31 August 1957 and 12 August 1966" and there is no mention of the period up to the 31st December 1966 which was one of the Malaysians' criteria to the other Commonwealth countries (5). Furthermore, the definition of '90 days' does not include reference to 'cumulative'.
Question a): Are the criteria for British citizens as set out in the offer to the British by the Malaysian Government different from those for all other Commonwealth countries?
Question b): If the criteria are different, is that at the behest of the British or the Malaysians?
Question c): To date, the Government have declined to confirm the eligibility criteria - can the criteria for the British now be confirmed officially?
B. "The Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals (the official committee which advises Her Majesty The Queen on matters of honours policy) has recommended that an exception to two of the long-established Rules governing the accepting and wearing of foreign (including Commonwealth) awards to be made, to enable the Malaysian Government to present the PJM."
The Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals
We are aware of the role of this Committee (the HD Committee).
We have been advised by one of its members that they work under the "Honours in Confidence" system.
Question a): In the context that it is an unelected Committee, do they act with the force of law?
Question b): Is there any redress open to a civilian who considers that he has been discriminated against or that his human rights have been affected by a decision arising from any recommendation of the unelected HD Committee?
Question c): Is there any statutory basis for the Honours in Confidence system that is designed to prevent their deliberations, in respect of a medal to 35,000 civilians, to be kept out of the public domain until released to the National Archives?
Question d): Is the Honours in Confidence system an appropriate defence in the case of the PJM, and generally in an era of Freedom of Information and the new Open Honours System championed by the Prime Minister?
Exceptions to two of the long-established Rules - Double Medalling
Via this statement, the HD Committee justifies its recommendations for accepting the PJM on the basis of allowing two exceptions to established Rules. Although they did not say so, which is confusing and tends to fudge the issue, we believe they refer to the double (or dual) medalling rule and the 'over 5 years' rule.
The statement then goes on to quote two exceptions (we believe to be the same two mentioned in the previous paragraph but the statement is silent on that too) in order to justify why permission to wear the PJM will not be given.
We believe that in the context of British Medals Rules it is anomalous to use the same two rules to accept the award but invoke them to prevent the medal being worn.
We would also point out that the claim that double-medalling would take place is erroneous. Specifically, for 5½ years of PJM service in Singapore and for 1½ years of PJM service on the Peninsular, no British medal was awarded.
Furthermore, we submit that the British medal eligibility dates are irrelevant because the scope of the PJM is wider than any British medallic award - as confirmed by the New Zealand Government (6).
Question a): Who advised the HD Committee that double medalling applied throughout the period of eligibility of the PJM - in particular, was it the MOD representative on the Committee?
Question b): How does the view of those who advised the HD Committee that double medalling would occur, differ from that of the New Zealand Prime Minister who states that the scope of the PJM is wider than any New Zealand medallic award that would, of course, include the three British awards which apply to operations during the Emergency, Borneo, and Malay Peninsular?
Question c): Is it recognised that British 'campaign service' and 'service' to Malaysia are quite separate issues with the overlap on The Emergency and Confrontation operations?
Exceptions to two of the long-established Rules - 5-Year Rule
We submit that it was erroneous to apply the 5-year rule to the PJM. That rule was never intended to address a Commonwealth country's award to a group of Commonwealth countries.
The MOD itself is helpful to our understanding of the correct application of this rule. Its subsidiary, the Veterans Agency, explains that on its website (7):
"Retrospective Awards - Since the end of World War II, the HD Committee has maintained a policy that it will not consider the belated institution of awards and medals for service given many years earlier. The reason for this policy is that the present HD 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."
There have been no previous decisions regarding the PJM which was recommended for the first time in 2004, and all those responsible for its recommendation are on call today to discuss with the Government or the HD Committee the basis and criteria for their offer of the PJM.
Question a): At which point before 2004 was the PJM previously discussed?
Question b): In what respect is it considered to be in the interests of any person, the country or the UK or Imperial Honours System, to erroneously apply this rule to discriminate against British ex-servicemen and women (and eligible civilians) in order to deprive them of a little joy in the twilight of their lives as they remember their service to Malaysia - or to deprive widows and next of kin of some pride in what their husbands or fathers did?
Question c): Why have Russian medals been accepted for wear when they are commemorative medals in respect of events 50 years earlier while this Commonwealth award has been rejected?
C. "Permission to wear the PJM will not, however, formally be given. It is long standing Government policy that non-British medals will not be approved for events or service:
that took place more than 5 years before initial consideration, or in connection with events that took place in the distant past (e.g. commemorative medals);
if the recipient has received a British award for the same service."
Permission to wear the PJM will not, however, formally be given
If one interprets the Queen's English correctly, this sentence implies that permission exists but has not been formally given. It also specifically suggests that somebody is withholding that permission.
We cannot trace any previous precedent where these words 'formal permission' have been employed in a situation akin to that of the Commonwealth PJM. The phrase suggests a concoction of words designed to fudge the issue and enable somebody to prevent something happening (the wear) where otherwise that 'someone' could be seen to be acting unjustifiably or with crude mean-minded intent if they were to have issued a statement such as "Permission to wear the Malaysian medal has been denied".
'Formal' also implies that a contrary 'informal' option exists to those eligible for the PJM.
Question a): What exactly does formal 'mean'?
Question b): Who is withholding 'formal permission'
Question c): To whom do we apply for formal permission or to whom can we appeal this decision?
The Committee reviewed the 5-year and double medalling rules and considered that, … there were sound reasons why they should be retained
Only a few days before the HD Committee were due to sit to review 'foreign decorations' and the PJM, the MOD were still stating that double medalling was an objection. We have demonstrated that the double-medalling does not and cannot apply to the scope and eligibility of the PJM. Consequently, the HD Committee were incorrectly briefed.
Most importantly, the juxtaposition and conjunction of the two rules is specifically explicit that one rule was not sufficient in itself to produce the recommendation - otherwise only one need have been quoted … or the conjunction 'or' employed.
If one rule is removed - double medalling - then it follows explicitly that the other rule that has been invoked, the 5 year rule, is insufficient of itself to substantiate the 'keepsake' recommendation. In any event, we submit that the 5-year rule should not be applied to the PJM for reasons stated above.
Question a): On what grounds can double medalling apply to the scope and period of the PJM in the context of the scope of the PJM and the 5 ½ year and 1 ½ year gaps in British medals referred to above?
Question b): In the absence of the support of the double medalling rule, and the fact that the 5 year rule was never intended to be applied to a medal such as the Commonwealth PJM, on what grounds is the 5 year rule applied?
Question c): With both the double medalling and the 5 year rule objections rebutted, will veterans be given formal permission to wear their medals on occasions such as Remembrance Day and Anzac Day or in the presence of HM The Queen?
Question d): In the context that the PJM is a Commonwealth medal already worn by Commonwealth citizens in respect of services that involved British casualties, killed and wounded, can we be reassured that the HD Committee, when reviewing their recommendation will not endeavour to recommend a restricted award, i.e. that the medal can only be worn on occasions directly relating to occasions specific to Malaysia or when physically in Malaysia (preventing wear at British and Commonwealth war memorials on appropriate occasions)?
In summary, the Ministerial Statement made by written answer contains conflicting and confusing statements. It is our view that this is in part due to the erroneous briefing to the HD Committee and in part due to the inappropriate application of guidance rules.
Cabinet Office Letter dated 2nd February 2006
I now turn to the Cabinet Office Letter which was sent to me in reply to some letters I had written to that department in 2005. The letter, dated two days after the Statement, is self-explanatory but begs a number of questions.
Having reiterated the 'two exceptions' aspect discussed above, the letter then goes on to make some damning statements or overt inferences about the PJM and those eligible for it.
D. "The decision to accept the Pingat Jasa Malaysia has been a complicated matter, involving several departments. It involves making a special exception to two of the rules governing the acceptance and wear of foreign awards. However, it was not judged appropriate for the medal to be worn"
A complicated matter
British Medal Rules provide for an early refusal to be made to the offer of a foreign award. This matter was only made complicated because that specific rule was not applied and instead the British dithered for a year before fumbling into a confused and contradictory recommendation that upset everyone.
When the PJM was eventually sent for review, it was put before the HD Committee that in turn makes recommendations to the Queen for an award to be accepted and worn. Note the conjunction 'and'. It does not say 'accepted or worn' nor does it say 'accepted or accepted and worn'.
British citizens do not need the Queen's permission to receive a gift of a foreign keepsake from a foreign country.
So we know that the PJM was considered as a wearable award.
Question a): At which point was the PJM not considered worthy of being worn by veterans in their sixties and seventies, and on civilian clothes, while they paid their respects and remembered this country's war dead?
Question b): Why was the offer not refused early on?
Question c): Why was the offer made to the British several weeks after it had been made to Australia and New Zealand?
However, it [the PJM] was not judged appropriate to be worn.
Here we have another description "appropriate". The PJM acknowledged being in respect of 'service'. Many men died. In the context that that service acknowledged an outright win in a war on terror backed by both China and Russia who were endeavouring to destabilise the whole of the region followed by a war against Indonesian ambitions in Malaya and Borneo backed by the sixth largest army in the world to prevent the consolidation of Malaysia, we simply do not understand this phrase.
Was account taken of the fact that, with few exceptions, the PJM would be worn by civilians and not by people subject to uniform regulations?
Question a): What does "not judged appropriate" mean?
Question b): What do we, or Britain, have to be ashamed of?
Question c): Why does the HD Committee and HMG place any emphasis at all on the wearing of an accepted medal by retired veterans, now civilians, for rigorous and vigorous service (as opposed to a medal for being in uniform on somebody's birthday or for being a member of a particular family or privileged group)?
E. "We are aware that in recent years the Australian and New Zealand Governments have agreed to allow their veterans to both receive and wear certain campaign medals awarded by foreign governments."
Australian and New Zealand Acceptance
We understand the point about both Commonwealth countries having opted out of the Imperial Honours System but, however much the HD Committee, the Cabinet Office, or the Government may try and camouflage the implications, the Queen has given Australian and New Zealand citizens the right to wear the PJM but she has been instructed not to give that same consent to her British subjects.
In our view, that is a clear case of discrimination within the Commonwealth and serves no useful purpose other than to denigrate those who served and the other Commonwealth countries, including Malaysia.
Question a): Why did the HD Committee and HMG decide to create a two-tier class system within the Commonwealth of Nations?
Question b): (as above) What is the position of those citizens with dual nationality? Is it seriously being suggested that they should not be allowed to wear their PJM while standing alongside their ex-comrades on ANZAC Day and other memorial occasions held overseas?
Question c): Does the HD Committee, or whoever is withholding 'formal' permission, consider ANZAC Day to be an 'informal occasion' or a 'formal occasion'?
Question d): Does the HD Committee, or whoever is withholding 'formal' permission, consider that for civilians with no uniform code attending a Remembrance Day service to be attending an 'informal occasion' or a 'formal occasion'?
Foreign Campaign Medals
This is the first time that we have seen the PJM referred to in the context of a foreign campaign medal. More confusion - arguments to-date have been all about foreign commemorative medals seemingly on the basis that the latter are more easily refused within the Foreign Decorations Rules.
We wonder if the introduction of the 'foreign campaign medal' phrase is designed to support the argument for double medalling when we know that double medalling cannot apply to the PJM.
Question a): (as above, but extended) Is the PJM a commemorative medal, a service medal, or a foreign campaign medal? Or is it considered to be a mixture of the three? Again, what is the PJM referred to as being in the offer made by the Malaysian Government?
Question b): Has the 'foreign campaign medal' inference been invoked to try and shore up the double medalling claim (rebutted above)?
F. "Her Majesty accepted the advice of the HD Committee whose role it is to ensure that the integrity of the UK Honours System is maintained."
The Integrity of the UK Honours System
It is interesting to note that we now have a UK Honours System whereas in previous papers it has been referred to as the Imperial Honours System.
Question a): Which is it - the Imperial Honours System, the UK Honours System, or both? And is the nomenclature selected to assuage the feelings of the Australian, New Zealand and Malaysian peoples or is there some other purpose to it?
Question b): In what respect can the wearing of the PJM, by people who defeated terrorism and confrontation, possibly infringe on the integrity of a UK Honours System or an Imperial Honours System?
Question c): What have we done to attract such a shameful reaction to our service - so shameful that we should feel that what we did conflicts with the UK or Imperial Honours System?
Question d): Has this anything to do with the fact that Malaysia is an ex-colony and consequently an award from the King and Government of that country is judged by the UK Honours System or Imperial Honours System to be not very respectable?
Question e) In concluding that the wearing of PJM impinges on the integrity of the UK Honours System or the Imperial Honours System, did the HD Committee and the Government take into account that a Gurkha soldier won the Victoria Cross while serving Malaysia, and would they explain why the highest award for gallantry can possibly impinge on any Honours System?
G. "…the HD Committee did not consider there was a strong case for these rules to be disregarded entirely for the Pingat Jasa Malaysia and, indeed, doing so would compromise previous awards and the integrity of the system."
This is all very confusing. The rules were not entirely disregarded, allegedly, and so the recommendation does not compromise anything nor does it impinge on any integrity.
Question a): Because the rules were apparently not disregarded (two were taken into account and, after consideration, not seen as an obstacle to acceptance) and so the feared effects of such disregard would not be felt, why was the PJM not given consent to be worn?
The PJM compromises previous awards
I was astonished to be told that the PJM compromises previous awards! What on earth can we have done? It makes us feel second rate, it makes the Malaysians feel spurned, and it makes the widows and next of kin think that their loved ones died for a second rate cause.
In 2005 President Bush and his advisors adopted the Oil Spot Strategy (8) as being their only real hope of achieving a reasonable end to the war in Iraq. The Americans state "The success of British colonial forces against the Malay rebellion in the 1950s [and, we know, it took until 1960 to achieve success] is being commended in the United States as a template for victory in Iraq."
Question a): Which previous awards would be compromised if the PJM is worn?
Question b): Why, when our PJM service was so successful in a war on terror, should an acknowledgement of that service rate lower than a Jubilee Medal and put our Imperial Honours System and previous awards into jeopardy?
In a Democratic Society the people have the right not only to question those who make laws or rules which are expected to be obeyed but also to question what they believe to be breaches of their Civil Liberties or Basic Human Rights. In an open forum, therefore, have have the right to ask:
Did Her Majesty the Queen issue instructions that veterans should not receive formal permission to wear the PJM and, if not
by what authority did the person who issued this instruction do so, and
who is it that is withholding 'formal permission'?
In summary, we believe that the HD Committee was erroneously briefed in relation to the PJM and so we also believe that it is within the Government's power to either request a review of that recommendation or, more simply, arrange for a form of words to be promulgated that allows veterans to wear their medal.
It is our view that those eligible for the PJM should be enabled to both accept and wear their award without restriction.
(1) Ministerial Statement dated 31st January 2006
(2) Cabinet Office Letter dated 2nd February 2006
(3) Foreign Decorations - the Rules as submitted to the Commons by the Foreign Secretary on 21st November 2005
(4) Australian Government - Application Form and Criteria for the PJM
(5) The Queen's Representative in Australia is the first to be presented with the PJM
(6) The New Zealand Prime Minister's Statement
(7) The Veterans Agency Web Site
(8) The Daily Telegraph Oil Spot Strategy Article, 3/12/2005
Your turn now!
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Subject = About Us
Comment=I took an oath of allegiance to the Queen not this Government and I will wear mine despite what this government says. I would urge everyone to do the same..
(John Ireland, UK - contact details supplied)