Mahathir痴 television  special interview  on Al-Ma置nah arms heists ill-advised, unbalanced, partisan, self-serving, debased Parliament and  the value of the White Paper being prepared and undermined public confidence that the Barisan Nasional government is capable of rising above party politics to create a new basis to re-unite Malaysians regardless of race, religion or political beliefs


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
 

(Petaling Jaya,  Thursday): Mahathir痴 television  interview yesterday on Al-Ma置nah arms heists was  ill-advised, unbalanced, partisan, self-serving, debased Parliament and the value of the White Paper being prepared and undermined public confidence that the Barisan Nasional government is capable of rising above party politics to create a new basis to re-unite Malaysians regardless of race, religion or political beliefs.

Although the moderator of the special interview, former journalist and currently Deputy Vice- Chancellor (Student Affairs) Universiti Malaya, Dr. Firdaus Abdullah started the hour-long session stating that the main subject  of the discussion would be the arms robbery incident at Camp 304, Territorial Army Battalion, Grik and the brutality of the robbers at Bukit Jenalik, Sauk, neither he nor the two journalist- panellists, Editor-in-Chief of the Utusan Melayu Group and TV3 Senior General Manager (News and Current Affairs) Chamil Wariya asked a single question about the arms heists in the two Grik military camps.

The television interview was unbalanced for the Prime Minister and the panellists showed no interest whatsoever as to how a ragtag Al-Ma置nah gang of  15 people led by what the Inspector-General of Police had described as 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 or 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 rather than  into the hands of the Al-Ma置nah gang most of whose members had not held a gun before and did not know how to make use of the huge stash of weapons.

The initial righteous indignation of the mainstream media, which carried stinging editorials lambasting the military authorities and the  Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and demanding  "transparent and comprehensive" accountability  for the embarrassing and "spine-chilling" security breaches seem to have all been dissipated. In its stead, the mainstream media chiefs have fallen into line to pursue the Barisan Nasional agenda to politicise the Al-Ma置nah arms heists to attack the Barisan Alternative, particularly PAS.

The public reaction to Mahathir痴 special interview is one of great  disappointment, both at its  unfairness to the Opposition and over the missed opportunities by the moderator and the panellists to elicit answers from the Prime Minister to so many questions uppermost in the minds of most Malaysians since the arms heists on July 2, such as:
 

 
Mahathir痴 interview pre-empts and debases  the value of the White Paper that is being prepared for tabling in Parliament on the Al-Ma置nah arms heists and killings. It also debases Parliament as it raises the question why Parliament was not allowed to debate the Al-Mau地ah arms heists and killings despite the two attempts by the Barisan Alternative and Barisan Nasional MPs to adjourn the Dewan Rakyat on a motion of urgent, definite public importance, while Mahathir could speak for one-hour on television on the matter.

If the Barisan Nasional government does not want a national debate on the Al-Ma置nah arms heists and killings until the preparation and publication of the White Paper, then Mahathir should not have gone on television for such a self-serving special interview on the subject.  If the government wants a public discussion on the Al-Ma置nah arms heists and killings, and rightly so as there can be no reason to put a public debate on such an important subject on hold, then Parliament should be the first and most important forum for such a debate!

The most important question the moderator and panellists should have asked Mahathir at the special interview yesterday was whether the Barisan Nasional government was capable of rising above party politics to create a new basis to re-unite Malaysians to ensure solidarity not only  within the Muslim community but also  between the non-Muslims and Muslims for the common welfare of all Malaysian citizens.

But none of them raised the initiative and invitation by the Barisan Alternative to the Barisan Nasional to a roundtable conference to  transcend party politics and to take a non-partisan national approach to deal with the aftermath of the Al-Ma置nah arms heists.
 
The moderator and the panellists also do not seem to have the independence of mind to ask the Prime Minister why two army boards of inquiry had been set up when there should be an independent inquiry involving members from outside the armed services to conduct a wide-ranging and comprehensive investigation not only into the security but also the political and nation-building dimensions of the Al-Ma置nah arms heists.

The allegation by Mahathir that the  opposition was trying to absolve or whitewash the Al-Ma'unah  group of the criminal act of staging the  Grik arms heist and the Sauk  hostage killings by charging that it was the government's own doing cannot be allowed to remain  unchallenged.

Mahathir should name the opposition political parties and the political leaders he is accusing of making attempts to "whitewash or absolve the crime by those involved directly or  indirectly and to evoke sympathy for the criminals", producing credible evidence to allow for full rebuttal, or he should refrain from such irresponsible politicking.

In the  interview, asked whether it was true that "there were several members of this group who escaped, and are currently in Kuala Lumpur and in the process of causing trouble", Mahathir said a group of between three to five Al-Ma置nah people carried a M16 rocket launcher out of Sauk.

He said:
 

Asked whether all had been caught, Mahathir said:
 

Malaysians must find the irresponsible manner in which Mahathir gave  information about the Al-Ma置nah arms heists most disturbing.  In the first place,17 days after the arms heists, the  Prime Minister should not be indulging in speculative talk  about "reports" that Al-Ma置nah members shot a  M16 rocket launcher at a temple and a Carlsberg brewery in Kuala Lumpur, but solid and confirmed information as to whether there were such incidents or not. Otherwise, the Prime Minister would be no different from other  rumour-mongerers over the Al-Ma置nah arms heists.
Since Mahathir had referred to such "reports", the authorities concerned should release the full information about them.

Furthermore, if it was true that a group of between three to five Al-Ma置nah people carried a M16 rocket launcher out of Sauk and shot at a temple and a Carlsberg brewery in Kuala Lumpur, and they were later arrested in  Sungai Petani, the authorities should explain how this Al-Ma置nah group managed to escape the tight security dragnet that was imposed immediately after the Grik arms heists, allowing them not only to get down all the way to the Federal Capital but to return to Sungai Petani with the M16 rocket launcher before they were arrested.

The Barisan Nasional government should not dole out information whether about the Al-Ma置nah arms heists or other important public events whenever it suits its political agenda, but must respect the right to know and the right to information of  Malaysians if we are serious in wanting the country to enter the information age.

Finally, there are two queries about Mahathir痴 special television interview last night why should the University of Malaya痴 Deputy Vice Chancellor (Student Affafirs) be involved in such an unbalanced partisan programme and why there was no multi-racial and multi-religious composition in the panel.

(20/7/2000)


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman