The UMNO Supreme Council met one week earlier than scheduled on Monday because of the Al-Maunah arms heists while this was the top item on the agenda at the Barisan Nasional MPs pre-council meeting on Monday morning specially chaired by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad who had absented himself for a long time from such pre-council meetings. (The latter was disclosed to the press by the Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Muhamad Abdullah, who actually had no business to attend the Barisan Nasional MPs pre-council meeting as this would compromise the office and position of the Deputy Speaker which should be seen as impartial and rising above party politics).
Unfortunately the Dewan Rakyat has become so irrelevant to the national issues and latest concerns of the people that Members of Parliament could not conduct a full and proper debate on the Al Mauna arms heists although Parliament is in session.
I find the statement yesterday by the Defence Minister, Datuk Najib Tun Razak that a "high-level" board of inquiry would be set up "soon" to probe into the Grik arms heists most shocking, as it is most scandalous that a board of inquiry is not yet in full swing although Najib had announced that it would be established nine days ago on Monday, 3rd July 2000 - showing an utter lack of urgency and seriousness and total absence of the proper order of priorities on the part of the Defence Minister.
Although Najib had fobbed off demands for his resignation as Defence
Minister because of the Grik arms heists and the history of weaponry loss
from military armouries posing a threat to national security and law and
order, claiming that the Transport Minister need not resign if there
is a plane crash, his tardiness and procrastination
in setting up an inquiry board into the Grik arms heists will
only re-ignite public concern as to his suitability to continue as Defence Minister.
The armed forces is the latest government institution to forfeit public confidence and it is imperative that the inquiry into the Grik arms heists should be conducted by an independent board involving personalities from outside the armed services or the Defence Ministry if the military is to restore public confidence.
It is a shameful blot on the record and reputation of the Malaysian armed forces that a ragtag gang of 15 people led by a 29-year-old "mentally-unstable", ex-army private could empty two high-security armouries of vast cache of high-calibre weapons, including some 100 M-16 rifles, heavy and light machine guns, grenade launchers, high-exposive shells and thousands rounds of ammunition.
What would have happened if such fearsome firepower, enough to equip a small army and to start a war, had fallen into the hands of professionally-trained people?
The Al Mauna army heists would have been nipped in the bud if there had been no breakdown of military discipline and security procedures, where officers could pull rank to disregard rules and regulations.
What Malaysians are concerned is that there appears to be an attempt to sweep the grave breakdown of military discipline and security under the carpet by creating a national scare that the elected government of the country was on the verge of being toppled by Al Maunah Sheikh Amin Mohd Razali, who was earlier described by the Inspector-General of Police as "mentally-unstable"!
Any such attempt to sweep the serious problem of military indiscipline will be a grave disservice to the security and welfare of the nation. While the government should learn the lesson of Al Mauna to be on greater alert to stamp out religious deviationist groups which espouse violence to achieve their purported ends, it should be even more concerned about the shocking breakdown of military discipline and security as happened in the two Grik army camps as it is such military lapses which pose the greatest threat to national security and safety.
Something must be very wrong and rotten about the Malaysian system of government and society if a 29-year-old "mentally-unstable", ex-army private leading a ragtag gang could pose a serious threat to the elected government of the day.
Malaysians want the government to deal with the two problems of serious lapses of military discipline and security on weaponry armouries and violent Islamic deviation groups like Al-Mauna with full seriousness and responsibility and not to play "party political games".
Mahathir said after the UMNO Supreme Council's Monday meeting at the Prime Minister's Residence at Putrajaya (which is another example of abuse of power as the residence is for the Prime Minister and not the UMNO President) that the motive of the Al-Maunah group was to topple the government, and that their "first radio communication they demanded that the Prime Minister and all his kulis (coolies) step down".
As this was the first time that the people were told of such a politically-loaded message after more than a week after the Grik arms heists, it is understandable that many Malaysians wonder about the veracity of such information.
There is now a nation-wide dragnet arresting Al-Mauna members. Such doubts about the veracity of such an information will not be put to rest even if some of the Al-Mauna members subsequently make public confessions as Malaysians have learnt in the first Anwar Ibrahim trial of Special Branch techniques of "turning over" and "neutralising" witnesses, making people confess to things they know nothing about.
This is why DAP had proposed the establishment of a Joint Barisan Nasional-Barisan Alternative Committee to deal with the aftermath of the Al-Mauna arms heists to work out a bipartisan national counter-strategy to prevent the recurrence of the Grik arms heists and to stamp out deviationist religious groups which espouse violence and are prepared to maim and murder to achieve their purported ends.
This would also ensure public credibility and confidence in government accounts about the Al-Mauna arms heists, that they are not self-serving or "turned-over" accounts to help UMNO overcome its political crisis - which was confirmed yesterday by the Wanita UMNO head Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz who proposed that UMNO abolish the posts of Umno vice-presidents as the contest for such post led to money politics, chaos and endless campaigning which would weaken the party.
This is why DAP has called for the establishment of a Joint Barisan Nasional-Barisan Alternative Committee to work out a bipartisan national counter strategy to prevent the recurrence of the Grik arms heists and the Al-Mauna hostages and barbaric torture/murders and to effectively address the grave issues raised by them.
Mahathir should without delay table in Parliament a White Paper on the Al Mauna arms heists and move a motion on Monday for a full, sober and responsible parliamentary debate on the dual problems of serious lapse of military discipline and security on weaponry armouries and violent Islamic deviation groups like Al-Mauna.