Still in service for Brothers in arms – Malay Mail

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The Malay Mail | Malaysia | 27 Nov 2016 | Asia Samachar |
ABOUT 40 members attended the Malaysian Armed Forces Sikh Veterans Association (MAFSVA) inaugural meeting for its Perak branch on 20 Nov 2016. MFSVA Perak is led by Cmdr Avatar Singh(Rtd). Among those present at the dinner were association Maj (Rtd) Baghwan Singh (deputy president), Maj (Rtd) Suwaran Singh (secretary), Maj (Rtd) Harwan Singh (treasurer), Battle of Kampar Chairman Maj (Rtd) Tara Singh and Lt-Col (Rtd) Mohan Singh (vice president). - PHOTO / SUPPLIED
ABOUT 40 members attended the Malaysian Armed Forces Sikh Veterans Association (MAFSVA) inaugural meeting for its Perak branch on 20 Nov 2016. MFSVA Perak is led by Cmdr Avatar Singh(Rtd). Among those present at the dinner were association Maj (Rtd) Baghwan Singh (deputy president), Maj (Rtd) Suwaran Singh (secretary), Maj (Rtd) Harwan Singh (treasurer), Battle of Kampar Chairman Maj (Rtd) Tara Singh and Lt-Col (Rtd) Mohan Singh (vice president). – PHOTO / SUPPLIED

By Loghun Kumaran

THE spirit of service has burned brightly in Major (Rtd) Baldev Singh Ganda Singh since he first joined the ranks at the age of 21.

The Taiping born army veteran is the president of the Malaysian Armed Forces Sikh Veterans Association (MAFSVA), an organisation devoted to improving the welfare of Sikh ex-servicemen who served the nation.

In his own words, he has served all over Malaysia as one of the Royal Logistics Corps in a career that spanned 18 years.

Decades later, the 70-year-old is still devoted to service — this time in the form of helping and honouring former servicemen from the Sikh community.

Mixing spryness with humility and humour, Baldev spoke to Malay Mail at the first social gathering of the Perak chapter. He recalled that the idea of setting up the association was met with unanimous approval from his ex-serviceman colleagues.

“They were very supportive, no questions asked. Esprit de corps still runs through our blood because we all went through the same hardships together. We are a band of soldiers and we believe in helping our fellow veterans,” he said.

Many Sikhs have excelled in the ranks of police and the armed forces, and Baldev believes that this is down to the characteristics of their culture. However, he noted that many Sikh veterans were struggling in life even after serving the country with distinction.

“Sikhs are a warrior race, but we don’t wage war on others … we are defenders. It is in our culture to serve the country that we come from. While some veterans are doing well, many are suffering in the background. These are the people we want to help.”

Baldev stressed that it was important for welfare associations to work with other agencies that shared a similar cause.

“It’s not that the government doesn’t take care of them, it’s just that they may not know where to go and how to approach the veterans. This is where we can provide some guidance. Sikhs are a minority within a minority. We need to understand that we are the ones who should be helping out our community.”

ABOUT 40 members attended the Malaysian Armed Forces Sikh Veterans Association (MAFSVA) inaugural meeting for its Perak branch on 20 Nov 2016. MFSVA Perak is led by Cmdr Avatar Singh(Rtd). Among those present at the dinner were association Maj (Rtd) Baghwan Singh (deputy president), Maj (Rtd) Suwaran Singh (secretary), Maj (Rtd) Harwan Singh (treasurer), Battle of Kampar Chairman  Maj (Rtd) Tara Singh and Lt-Col (Rtd) Mohan Singh (vice president).

Despite its young age — it was set up in August — the association has already made a meaningful impact.

It is one of the parties pushing for the recognition and preservation of Green Ridge, a historic World War II battle site in Kampar, Perak as a war memorial.

So far, the association has met with the Indian High Commission and representatives from the Perak government to discuss the project. Further discussions with the tourism ministry is also in the pipeline.

“Besides being a tourist attraction and a heritage site, the war memorial will be a point of national pride,” said Major (Rtd) Tara Singh, the association’s chairman in charge of the “Battle of Kampar” project.

“There is no timeline yet for its completion, but I hope that building will start by the end of next year. We will also be organising a special prayer in conjunction with the battle’s 75th anniversary at the Kampar Gurdwara Sahib on Jan 22,” he said.

From a welfare perspective, the association has provided assistance to three ex-servicemen, including two double amputees and one physical disabled veteran.

In addition, the association also organised funerals with full military honours for two of its members who passed away — complete with a bugler playing the Last Post as a measure of respect. “The families are so happy when we do this because their loved ones are given the haonour they deserve when they pass on.

“We will provide this service, and other forms of assistance to all Sikh veterans — regardless of whether they are members or not,” Tara said. The association is currently in the midst of spreading its wings further. In addition to the new Perak chapter, Baldev hopes to have the Negri Sembilan and Selangor chapters up and running by the end of November.

At the moment, a state liaison committee has been formed in Perak, headed by Commander (Rtd) Avatar Singh Sarban Singh. More than 40 members have signed up as members.

For now, Avatar said the main objective is to register more members and locate veterans who need assistance.
He added that there were still disabled and sickly bedridden veterans in Perak who needed assistance “We will be putting up posters in gurdwaras around the state asking veterans to join the association.

“Many of the veterans spend most of their time at gurdwaras and they are not fond of using Whatsapp. It will be an effective way to disseminate information,” he said.

The association’s growth will only expand Baldev’s aim to continue serving the community with cooperation of all Sikh veterans.

“I do have passion and pride in what we are doing. You must have passion to serve. For me, it is a sense of duty to continue serving as I did before,” he said. For more information, call 019-333 2939 (Baldev), 019-279 2473 (Suwaran) or 012-978 1323 (Harwan).

The Sikh veterans featured in the Malay Mail (26 Nov 2016). Malaysian Armed Forces Sikh Veterans Association (MAFSVA) President Major (Rtd) Baldev Singh (right) talking to Perak chapter member Sawaran Singh. Looking on is MAFSA Treasurer Major (Rtd) Harwan Singh (red turban) and MAFSVA Perak head Commander (Rtd) Avatar Singh - PHOTO / MALAY MAIL
The Sikh veterans featured in the Malay Mail (26 Nov 2016). Malaysian Armed Forces Sikh Veterans Association (MAFSVA) President Major (Rtd) Baldev Singh (right) talking to Perak chapter member Sawaran Singh. Looking on is MAFSA Treasurer Major (Rtd) Harwan Singh (red turban) and MAFSVA Perak head Commander (Rtd) Avatar Singh – PHOTO / MALAY MAIL

The original article, entitled ‘Still in service for Brothers in arms’, was published by The Malay Mail, 26 Nov 2016.

 

[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]

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