Saturday, 25 February 2012

Have you heard of the Pingat Jasa Malaysia Medal?

The Government of Malaysia introduced the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM) medal in 2005 and awarded it to British and Commonwealth veterans who served in the conflict in Malaya between August 1957 and August 1966. This caught the final years of the Malayan Emergency and also the conflict in Borneo from 1962 to 1966. 

In September 1963 Malaysia came into being with the amalgamation of the Federation of Malaya (now West Malaysia) with the crown colony/British protectorate of Sabah and Sarawak, collectively known as British Borneo (now East Malaysia).  Rather than allowing the creation of East Malaysia, the then government of Indonesia wanted to absorb the territories into Kalimantan, their name for the Indonesian part of the Island of Borneo.  War was never officially declared between Indonesia and Malaysia and the Indonesians tried to support some local unrest in the former British Territories. 

British and Commonwealth forces supported the Malaysian Army in the fight against the Indonesian forces and by August 1966, following Indonesian President Suharto's rise to power, a peace agreement finally took effect as Indonesia accepted the existence of Malaysia.

From 1918 the British Army only issued one General Service Medal (GSM) to soldiers who had seen active service in what were termed as 'minor' conflicts that did not merit their own campaign medal.  Once a soldier got the medal, a bar or clasp was attached for the campaign in which he saw service.  The medal was first issued in 1918 and and a more recent variant in 1962 (the final one was issued in 2007).  What this meant was that a soldier could see active service in several theatres of war and still end up with just one medal, albeit with several clasps.

Those who served in the Malayan Emergency got the clasp 'Malaya' on the GSM (1918).  Those who served in Confrontation got the clasp 'Borneo' on the GSM (1962).  Compared to soldiers from other armies (such as the US Army) who had a chestful of medals for similar service, British Veterans often just had the one.

When the King and Government of Malaysia recognised British and Commonwealth veterans with the PJM in 2005, the surprising policy of the British Government was that veterans could accept the medal, but could not officially wear it.  The civil service bureaucrats concerned were hiding behind the fact that:  "Approval is not normally given for foreign medals to be accepted if British recognition for a campaign has already been presented."

This was not only disrespectful to the King and Government of Malaysia, it also created a justifiable sense of outrage amongst British veterans.  This resulted in a vigorous campaign that fought for their right to wear the medal. It took 7 years but, in 2011, the campaign was finally successful.  It has now been agreed that veterans can both accept and wear the PJM.  A statement to the press was published on 6 November 2011 by the Ministry of Defence which outlined that, for the first time, British veterans could officially wear the PJM during Remembrance Events from 11 November 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment