Members of Parliament from the Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternative should regard these issues as of overriding national interests which are of great concern to all Malaysians and political parties and they should not be turned into a partisan political football to score petty political points. For this reason, I would make a special call to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to issue a directive to Barisan Nasional MPs not to politicise the issues involved, just as Barisan Alternative MPs would not want to score petty political points on these important matters.
The nation and people had heaved a collective sigh of national relief on Thursday when the five-day Griks arms heists and Kampong Janelik hostage/ siege ended without a bloodbath, but it is wrong and dishonest for government leaders like the Defence Minister, Datuk Najib Tun Razak to claim that it was "total victory" for the authorities or that it was a "bloodless end".
The lives of three persons lost, two e from the police and the army, and the national trauma and shame that such a vast cache of high-calibre weaponry could be so easily robbed from high-security military armouries and the disastrous prospect of a bloodbath had these heavy weaponry, including some 100 M-16 rifles, heavy and light machine guns, grenade launchers, high-exposive shells and thousands rounds of ammunition, fallen into dangerous and highly-professional hands cannot be glossed over by the fact that the end was not as bloody as feared.
Many questions about the Grik arms heists, the Kampong Jenalik hostage/ siege and the Al Mauna deviation sect cry out for answers and the government should attempt to give as satisfactory an accounting as possible when Parliament reconvenes tomorrow.
The questions and concerns uppermost in public minds as a result of the Grik arms heists can be grouped into four sections, namely:
(1) The Grik arms heists
The shocking laxity in military discipline and security whereby vast cache of high-calibre weaponry could be robbed from two military camps,as it involves an unacceptable degree of military irresponsibility and negligence.
I agree with former military officer, Lt Kol (B) Shahrir Hashim from Subang Jaya who wrote to the press after the Grik arms heists and said that there is nothing wrong with the army's well-tested rules and regulations, it is just that most army officers these days are making soldiering a career and not a profession and when professionalism slacks, basic discipline goes down with it too.
He said he was sure that in the Grik arms heists, most if not all, the soldiers involved are placed under close arrest and then grilled for hours.
He rightly asked:
"Have they also stopped reading the guard duties to the night guards during guard mounting parades every evening?
"This serious and disgraceful shortcoming must be put right even if it calls for a court-martial. Remember the old saying that there are no bad soldiers but bad officers."
There is then the question of the Ministerial responsibility of Najib as Defence Minister, especially in view of the promise to tighten security in military armouries after the theft of four Steyr AUG assault rifles from the Royal Ordnance Corps in Kamunting in July last year. The Steyr assault rifles subsequently ended in the hands of the notorious group of bank robbers called the Steyr Gang, which was responsible for a spate of nine bank robberies and the murder of a security guard.
The Malaysian public are entitled to a full accountability of the security of army weaponry, the quantity and nature of weapons stolen in the past decade, how they had been put to use and the steps taken to tighten security, which clearly must involve a revamp of military discipline and morale to change the military mindset whereby no military officer would be allowed to pull rank to disregard military rules and procedures.
Defence and weaponry security is clearly too important a matter to be left solely to the armed forces and the Defence Ministry in a parliamentary democracy and there should be a regular and independent oversight of these matters by an all-Parliamentary Committee on Defence.
(2) The Kampong Jenalik hostage/siege
Public credibility of what actually transpired in the Kampong Jenalik hostage/siege suffered when there was a host of contradictions and confusions between official accounts and reported events, as for instance:
(i) On Tuesday, July 4, the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai denied that there had been any "exchange of fire" between the security forces and gunmen that day, claiming that the robbers were "test-firing" their arsenal. However, the media report that there were at least three shooting incidents that morning gained credibility when newspapers printed photographs of two wounded soldiers being sent to the Kuala Kangsar hospital for treatment. Nobody believed that these two soldiers were hurt when the robbers were "fire-testing" their arsenal!
(ii) Conflicting reports about the number of hostages, from two
to three and eventually it was found that four were held - including an
army commando which the authorities had never known or suspected, which
did not speak well for military organisation.
(iii) Conflicting versions as to whether all firearms and ammunition stolen from the two military camps in Grik had been recovered and accounted for.
(iv) Identity of the Al Mauna leader. On Wednesday, the press reported that a military officer who had been dishonourably discharged was believed to be the leader of the gang. It was reported that the person, who enlisted in 1985, was brought before a military court martial in 1998 for his involvement in human cargo trafficking and dadah, was sentenced to an 18-month prison term and was released recently. This would not tally with the subsequent information about the Al Mauna, that it had been conducting activities since September 1998 - the period he should be in imprisonment.
(v) The death of the third person, Abdul Halim Ali, one of the gang robbers. When recounting the bravery of Army Field Commander Lt. Jen Datuk Zaini Mohd Said risking his life to end the hostage stand-off and apprehend the Al Mauna leader Amin Mohd Razali on Thursday at about 4 p.m., Najib said Amin tried to shoot the unarmed Zaini with his M203 general purpose machine gun. " Amin was about to shoot Zaini when the latter warded off the gun which was then fired by Amin. The burst of gunfire hit one of Aminís followers, Halim, killing him instantly." (NST 7th July 2000 front-page story) However, yesterdayís Star front page story reported that from the pathologistís post-mortem in Kuala Kangsar, "It is learnt that the body of the member identified as Abdul Halim found near a tree was believed to have been dead for at least three days." The New Straits Timesí report yesterday also reported that "An accomplice, Abdul Halim Ali, was shot and killed on Wednesday, when he and two others attempted to breach the security cordon." Was Halim killed when Zaini diverted Aminís shot on Thursday or was he killed on Wednesday trying to breach the security cordon? A proper explanation is called for.
From the above examples, it is not wrong to say that arms heists/hostage/siege was a "P.R." disaster worsening public confidence, which was fortunately salvaged by the bizarre end, but this calls for an independent and professional review of what actually transpired in Kampong Jenalik and how future crisis of this nature could be handled in a better and more professional way to secure public confidence.
(3) Al Mauna Deviation Sect
The announcement by Minister in the Prime Ministerís Department, Senator Datuk Paduka Dr. Abdul Hamid Othman that Al Mauna had been declared a deviationist sect seems to be locking the stable door after the horses have bolted.
As Abdul Hamid said that the Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) and all State religious departments had always monitored religious-based non-government organisations, he should explain why JAKIM had failed to monitor Al Maunaís activities, when its activities were openly displayed on its website on the Internet.
The mass media gave pages of coverage to the photographs of activities of Al Mauna taken from its website. If these photographs do indicate that Al Mauna is a deviationist sect which threatens the security of the people and nation, then JAKIM had been very irresponsible and negligent in carrying out its duties in failing to check Al Maunaís deviationist activities. Hamid should give a full accounting of JAKIMís failure to Parliament. In fact, he should present a White Paper in Parliament on all the 44 deviationist groups nationwide which he said JAKIM had identified.
Todayís press reported arrests of another 24 Al-Maunah members. The government should not use the Internal Security Act against the Al Maunah members and should charge them under existing laws for any offences they had committed so as to allow them the opportunity for a public trial.
(4) Arms heists/hostage/Al Maunah should not become political football in Parliament
The Barisan Nasional government must be mindful of its national responsibilities and not play party politics on the arms heists/hostage/Al Maunah issues, especially in Parliament beginning tomorrow by trying to scapegoat opposition parties.
No Minister or MP should make any allegation implicating any political party unless there is proof of such party involvement - as otherwise, the important issues of accountability with regard to the arms heists, Kampong Jenalik hostage/siege and JAKIMís monitoring of deviationist sects endangering public security would be sidelined and even ignored - which would be a great disservice to the people and nation.