The question uppermost in the minds of Malaysians is whether there are al-Qaida cells in Malaysia.
This is because Malaysia has shot into international prominence and “black-list” as one of the countries in Southeast Asia used by al-Qaida operatives to carry out their terrorist designs, frequently cited by the Western media, whether New York Times on Wednesday (as the likely targets of future US covert and overt actions) or the latest Time Daily on-line reporting on proposals by the United States to expand its operations against Al-Qaida in places as far-flung as the Philippines and Malaysia which “underscore the global reach of Osama Bin Laden’s networks”.
This sudden notoriety of Malaysia was further aggravated by CNN’s round-the-clock coverage yesterday of the arrests of “six more Afghan-trained KMM members” in Malaysia under the Internal Security Act (ISA) - reinforcing the international impression that the country has become a hub of terrorism, especially when countries like New Zealand included Malaysia among the countries it is advising its nationals against travelling to.
In reply to the statement by the United States Secretary of State
Colin Powell about al Qaeda network in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Phillipines,
Deputy Prime Mminister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
could only ask for more information from the United States - with the US
Ambassador promising to fill in with the latest available data.
This is most unsatisfactory, as it is the Malaysian government which should be the final authority to know whether there are al-Qaeda cells in the country or not, and not to have to depend on information from American intelligence.
Could it be true that Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, which had used their training camps in Taliban Afghanistan as a kind of international university of terrorism, extended their tentacles to Malaysia by establishing cells in the country - to the total ignorance of the government or had the Malaysian authorities closed their eyes to the movements of such al Qaeda operatives so long as they were “birds of passage”?
On Wednesday, the government detained six more persons, including a PAS Youth leader, under the ISA alleging that they were Kumpulan Militant Malaysia (KMM) members.
In Parliament yesterday, Abdullah said a large number of KMM members were found to be Opposition supporters operating in its Terengganu and Kelantan networks and that KMM was also active in Perak, Johor, Kedah and Selangor.
Abdullah alleged that KMM was an underground movement established on Oct 12, 1995, by Zainon Ismail, a former mujahidin in Afghanistan and that it was taken over in early 1999 by Nik Adli Nik Abdul Aziz, the son of the Kelantan Mentri Besar, Nik Aziz Nik Mat.
Although the revulsiion, fears and concerns from the September 11 terrorist attacks have created the conditions where Malaysians are prepared to give the authorities greater benefit of doubt about the necessity for draconian pre-emptive security measures, the fact is that the government has failed to offer any concrete evidence in the past two months to satisfy Malaysians of the actual existence of the KMM.
When the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai first announced on 3rd August 2001 the arrest of eight persons under the ISA for being members of a local militant religious group with international terrorist links, he identified KMM as Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia - on the ground that “they had previously undergone military training with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan or have actually fought in the jihad wars there”.
When Nik Adli, was detained the next day under the ISA, the authorities as well as the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad openly associated him with the Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia.
In Parliament, during the emergency debate on the ISA arrests on 8th
August 2001, the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin specifically
alleged that Nik Adli was the head of the Kumpulan Mujaheedin Malaysia
and that it was
linked with several cases of robberies and violence.
On 9th August, Abdullah himself said that the police were investigating whether the Kumpulan Mujaheedin Malaysia received support from foreign sources, including financing for their activities.
When a former Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM) graduate from Johore, Taufik Abdul Halim, 26, was arrested by Indonesian police over the bombing of two churches and a shopping mall in Jakarta, he was linked to the Kumpulan Majaheedin Malaysia although his subsequent denial was virtually ignored by the mainstream media.
Ten days after Norian Mai’s first “revelation” about the Kumpulan Mujaheedin
Malaysia, however, the term suddenly disappeared from official usage, as
KMM underwent an unannounced change of identity to become “Kumpulan Militant
What was the reason for this sudden change of identity and the charade of police and government pretence that this change of identity of the KMM had never taken place - compounding the problem of the government’s credibility?
The much-promised White Paper on the KMM must be tabled in the current meeting of Parliament to present the government’s case for the ISA detentions of 19 persons for involvement with the KMM.
The Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar said in August that the number of militant groups in Malaysia was small and they did not affect the image or security of the nation as the government knew about their existence and was taking stern action against those involved in militant activities.
Had Hamid been misinformed or were the Malaysian authorities unaware of the operations of militant and even terrorist groups like al-Qaeda cells in Malaysia?
The time has come for the government to be frank and forthright with the people - to state whether there had been al-Qaeda cells in Malaysia and to produce concrete evidence on the existence and operations of the KMM in the country.