A congratulations to Tan Sri K. Thanabalasingam

Globally, we are living in a new era with heightened great power competition and geopolitical challenges.

Defense and international relations are more talked about now than any time in the past three decades since the end of the Cold War.

The years and possibly decades to come, defense and security will return as a major concern of all societies.

The core idea of Malaysiaโ€™s first-ever Defense White Paper which was presented to Parliament in December 2019 is to conceive Malaysia as a maritime nation. We are surrounded by the most important and contested waters in the world – the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea.

It is in this context that I congratulate Rotary Club of Damansara for honouring Tan Sri K. Thanabalasingam, the Malaysian Armed Forcesโ€™ veterans, and the Australian Armed Forces for their contribution to Malaysiaโ€™s defence and security. It is rare for civic groups like Rotary Club to think about defence but it is indeed the right thing to do and very apt for our time.

When I was Deputy Defence Minister, I had the honour to host Tan Sri K. Thanabalansingam for lunch very early during my tenure. He was responsible for some of the most consequential decisions for the Navy and the nation, such as deciding that the main naval bases would be in Lumut and Kuantan. We exchanged views on past conflicts and the role of the Armed Forces, and the future of Malaysiaโ€™s defence. He struck me as a figure with a sharp mind and broad knowledge.

Tan Sri K. Thanabalasingam was the first Malaysian Navy Rear Admiral. He was the third Chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy and the first Malaysian to be appointed to the post. He was only 31 years old in 1967.

Tan Sri K. Thanabalasingam made exceptional contributions throughout his illustrious career in the Navy. He laid the foundations for the Malaysian Navy and he is the role model of Malaysian leadership for the generations to come to emulate.

As friends and leaders from different fields and backgrounds gather here tonight, it is a befitting occasion to remind us that we all need to work together to build a better society. The government, policy-makers, NGOs and NPOs, advocacy groups and members of the public cannot work in silo. We are in this nation-building journey together.

I thank Rotary Club of Damansara and its new President Susan Joseph for the privilege to say a few words in honour of Tan Sri. I wish Tan Sri Thanabalasingam good health and everyone success in your future endeavors.

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