PETALING JAYA: When Lieutenant Mohammad Naim Abdul Razak was called to duty to help battle the Covid-19 pandemic sometime in March 2020, he was distraught at the thought of being separated from his family, especially, his one-year-old daughter.
“It was very challenging because I was forced to prioritise my country, and I knew I would rarely get the chance to meet with my family.”
His wife and daughter lived in Kuala Lumpur, while he was mainly stationed at the Malaysian Royal Armoured Corps camp in neighbouring Port Dickson.
Naim, 30, said throughout the pandemic, he was tasked with many different duties to help ensure safety and security.
“I was on Op Penawar and Op Benteng and I also had to do other specific tasks like guarding the special Covid-19 quarantine and treatment centres,” he said.
About 3,300 soldiers were deployed under Op Penawar to help police man the hundreds of roadblocks and static guard posts set up across the country at that time.
Meanwhile, under Op Benteng, Naim was among the soldiers who had to carry out surveillance to curb illegal migration at the border as part of the government’s efforts to avoid a worsening pandemic.
He said the experience helped him grow, as he was forced to deal with tasks he had never done as a soldier from the age of 18.
“Before this, I had never been exposed to collaborating with other agencies like the police and the health ministry. For example, under Op Benteng, I had to work side by side with personnel from the navy and the marine department, and so many others.”
However, no challenge was bigger than being away from his young daughter. He said she could not recognise him on the rare occasional visits he made after getting permission.
“My daughter is now three years old. It is quite sad that she has been very slow to bond with me because I had been away so much.
“Only now, she is finally able to recognise me as her father,” he said.
Recalling some of the bittersweet memories, he said the most bitter moment was when he was ordered to leave his Port Dickson camp on short-notice for Op Benteng in Johor.
“At that time, I was not prepared for this as I would be even farther away from my family. I was stationed in Johor for two months. There are a lot of bitter memories there,” he said.
However, he found solace in the few but valuable occasions that he was able to call and speak to his wife and daughter.
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“It was rare but I cherished the few times I was able to. It really calmed me down.”
Asked about criticism levelled against enforcement authorities throughout the pandemic, he said he had tried to keep a positive mind.
“This really depends on each individual’s perspective. When I looked at social media, there were some negative criticisms but also comments that were positive.
“But a lot of them were positive, so I focused on that. Many veterans were actively defending personnel working throughout the pandemic when naysayers tried to criticise us. After all, we were just carrying out orders.”
Every soldier, he said, should be prepared to fulfil their duties at times of crisis.
“It doesn’t matter which operation. We must be willing to sacrifice for the country and prioritise our duty above all else, including our families.”
For now, he feels ecstatic that he is able to see his family, as the interstate travel ban has been lifted. “I feel very happy, I have not seen them since July.”Internet Explorer Channel Network