I greet you: Major General Dato Aminuddin; Colonel Bijay Rawat, Commandant of the Academy; Major Shahnonizam, Commanding Officer, Officer Cadet School; Distinguished Guests otherwise, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I begin with the New Zealand Māori greeting, "Kia Ora" and in the context of this gathering I add the greeting: “Salaam Wailaikum”.
It has been with pleasure that my wife Susan and I have accepted the invitation to visit the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Military Academy and of the Officer Cadet School as part of our State Visit.
I would like to take this opportunity to speak of the role of officers in a nation’s defence forces and the growing defence relationship between New Zealand and Brunei Darussalam.
At the outset, I should note that I have no military background. Apart from three years as a secondary school military cadet from 1959-61, my career has been purely civilian, as a lawyer, judge and ombudsman. Indeed, New Zealand has not had a Governor-General with any military background in more than 25 years.
However, in August 2006, on becoming New Zealand’s 19th Governor-General, I also became the Commander-in-Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force. This is a ceremonial and, to an extent, constitutional role. As in almost all aspects of my role, as Commander-in-Chief, I act on the advice of Ministers of the Crown, in particular the Minister of Defence.
Even so, it has been fascinating to explore the many aspects of this role. There have been both highs and lows. For example, I awarded New Zealand’s highest honour, the Victoria Cross for New Zealand, to Corporal Willie Apiata in 2007 for his courageous service in Afghanistan. Earlier this year, however, I also needed to speak at the funeral of Lt Tim O’Donnell, the first New Zealander to be killed while on service in that same country.
I have been the reviewing officer for the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Officer Cadet School, as well as addressing the graduating class of senior officers from the Staff College. That programme has on several occasions included officers from Brunei whom I have had the pleasure of meeting.
This is but a brief and admittedly piecemeal overview of the connections between the Commander-in-Chief role and the Defence Force. New Zealand is a country with a Defence Force of some 15,000 personnel in Navy, Army and Air Force. The government’s policies and funding provided by a Ministry of Defence based on advice sought and obtained from the Defence Force. The Defence Force then implements the policies decided upon. However, these many interactions have made clear some key issues which are faced by all officers, regardless of which nation they serve.
The first is the underlying significance of the power and responsibilities entrusted to officers. As Commander-in-Chief, on the advice of the Minister of Defence, I sign the commissions of all officers of the New Zealand Defence Force, from that of the Chief of Defence through to the Lieutenants who graduate from the Officer Cadet School.
On behalf of the Queen of New Zealand, I place a formal trust in them. Each commission I sign states places my “trust and confidence” in their “loyalty, courage and good conduct” in discharging their duties as an officer and maintaining the discipline of subordinate officers and ranks, and following the orders and directions of their superiors. While I have no knowledge of the specifics of your commissions, I would not be surprised if there was not a similar wording.
These are not powers or responsibilities that any nation lightly gives to anyone. If so authorised, as officers they may have to give orders for the men and women under their command to use deadly force against others. The reality of active military service is that men and women may be injured, or even killed, in fulfilling their duties—duties that officer will have ordered them to undertake. There is significance in the actions of soldiers presenting arms in that military personnel acknowledge their subservience to governmental authority.
The other key point, and one that particularly applies to senior officers, is that modern military forces need senior officers who know more than just how to lead a force into battle.
Whereas the word "terrain" once referred the lie of the land, in the 21st Century, senior officers need to understand the increasingly complex issues in their area of command. For example, New Zealand's defence force is increasingly involved in peacekeeping activities where tact, diplomacy and a keen awareness of the difficulties of cross-cultural communication, rather than brute force, are the order of the day. I understand, for example, that there are currently Royal Brunei Armed Forces personnel deployed with a Malaysian battalion to Lebanon as well as others deployed to Mindanao as a part of the International Monitoring Team.
These sort of issues require strategic thinkers who need to not only be cognisant of the past, but also to be looking ahead, and often far ahead, in assessing potential challenges and opportunities.
Those challenges are more than just the obvious military issues of assessing potential and future threats and battlegrounds. They also include assessing potential and costly technological changes and needs, not only in military hardware, but in computer equipment and logistics support.
This is where institutions such the RBAF Military and Officer Cadet School play such a key role and where there has been one of many significant interactions between the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and the New Zealand Defence Force.
New Zealand and Brunei Darussalam have always had warm bilateral relations, and we now have many established links, including trade, investment, education and, in this context, in defence.
That defence relationship is built around the NZDF’s Mutual Assistance Programme. Military exercises, training assistance and annual discussions have helped develop a relationship of substance and value for both countries. The last Programme talks were held in Brunei in 2009 and I understand the next are to be held in New Zealand either late this year or early next year.
Brunei’s former Deputy Minister of Defence, Dato’ Paduka Pehin Yasmin, visited New Zealand in December last year and his visit highlighted the opportunities for further developing the bilateral defence relationship, including a host of existing defence-related educational links.
As an example, Massey University in New Zealand will soon begin to offer postgraduate studies to members of the RBAF Staff College. I understand the first course is due to start in November this year and that New Zealand expects to post a trainer to this Officer Cadet School soon.
New Zealand has been delighted to receive numbers of officers and cadets from Brunei to study and train in New Zealand over the years. From the mid-1980s to 2008, the RBAF sent officer cadets to train at the New Zealand Army’s Officer Cadet School in Waiouru.
As a result of that relationship, many officers of the Royal Brunei Land Forces have received New Zealand training having graduated from the NZ OCS. At the higher level of training, I am advised that the eleventh RBAF officer is currently attending the New Zealand Defence Force Staff College in Trentham, a course that prepares mid-ranked officers for senior staff and command appointments.
As our presence here today emphasises, Brunei has now established its own Officer Cadet School, with the first class graduating in 2008. I understand this school now produces officers for all three services and congratulate the RBAF on this achievement.
The New Zealand OCS has frequently conducted jungle training in Brunei since 2004. As a venue for assessing and developing leadership, the jungle takes young leaders out of their comfort zone and into different climate, terrain, vegetation, language and culture. For many young New Zealand officers the full ramifications of command and leading soldiers that I referred to earlier become quickly apparent in the jungles of Brunei.
I wish to take this opportunity to place on the record that New Zealand greatly appreciates the opportunities that Brunei Darussalam has provided for New Zealand soldiers to train in tropical conditions in Brunei alongside RBAF soldiers.
Those defence relations also include a significant civilian component. Brunei and New Zealand also co-operate closely together in Asia-Pacific forums and on issues concerning our region. Central to this is ASEAN.
New Zealand regards its relationship with ASEAN as a key pillar of its foreign policy and central to its closer engagement with the East Asian region. As evidence of that connection, I note that as I speak I understand that representatives from Brunei Darussalam and New Zealand are meeting with other Ministers from the region in Viet Nam for the inaugural ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus forum.
In conclusion, from training in the jungle, to training in the lecture theatre, to participation in joint exercises, the defence relationship between New Zealand and Brunei Darussalam can be described as significant and strong.
To the staff of the Academy and Officer Cadet School, I thank you for inviting us to visit and for giving me the opportunity to speak to you. To the officers and young cadets here today, I send my best regards for your future and ongoing careers.
And on that note, I seek to close in New Zealand's first language Māori, offering everyone present greetings and wishing everyone good health and fortitude in your endeavours.
No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora, kia kaha, tena koutou katoa.