Mahathir’s revelation had aroused both fears and incredulity among Malaysians.
Fears not only because the people are reminded of the Maphilindo proposals in the sixties to gobble up Malaysia in the so-called “confederation of Malay states” comprising Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia, but also because of their rejection of an Islamic state for Malaysia and the submersion of Malaysia in a so-called union of Islamic states comprising Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
But incredulity among the people over Mahathir’s revelation undoubtedly exceeded the fears - for the question uppermost in everyone’s mind is whether the shadowy KMM actually existed, as to date, its existence, organisational structure and nefarious criminal activities of murder, attempted murder, mayhem and armed robberies have still to be established to the satisfaction of ordinary Malaysians, and now the Prime Minister is saying that the KMM has international terrorist links to set up a union of a latter-day Islamic Maphilindo!
In the first place, is there a KMM? When the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai first announced on 3rd August 2001 the arrest of eight persons under the Internal Security Act (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, the son of the PAS Kelantan Mentri Besar, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, 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, the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi 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 and 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 Malaysia”! What is the reason for this sudden change of identity and the police and government pretence for the past three weeks that this change of identity of the KMM had never taken place - compounding the problem of the government’s credibility?
On 21st August, the Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar said 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.
With such a background, it should not be a surprise that Mahathir’s sudden revelation yesterday that the KMM had links with militant Islamic extremists in Indonesia and the Philippines, and that they have a common agenda to set up a union of Islamic States comprising Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, is not only most shocking, but raises the question about its credibility and veracity.
When President Megawati Sukarnoputri met Mahathir during her visit to Malaysia last week, Hamid Albar said they discussed “more intensive and closer co-operation between the security agencies of the two countries at all levels on the issues of militant and extremist religious groups”.
Malaysians are entitled to know whether Mahathir had discussed both with Megawati and President Arroyo Macapagal of the Philippines (who visited Malaysia before Megawati) on a regional strategy by the three governments to combat militant Islamic extremism aimed at establishing a union of Islamic states in South East Asia by violent means.
If Malaysia is confronted with the problem of militant Islamic extremism to use violence to overthrow the elected government of Malaysia to establish an Islamic State, it is then a grave national issue which does not concern merely UMNO and Barisan Nasional, but all political parties committed to a democratic political system for multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia.
For this reason, it is a great national disservice for UMNO and BN to use the issue of militant Islamic extremism as a partisan political football against PAS and Opposition when it should be a national challenge warranting the united response and consensus of all political parties committed to a democratic political system.
The government should convene an all-party roundtable conference to reach a national consensus on the challenge to the democratic way of life posed by militant groups, whether Islamic extremist or others who are prepared to use violence to bring about political change.
Mahathir however must always be mindful that the precondition to sucessfully mobilise and unite Malaysians regardless of race, religion or political beliefs to defend democracy is to promote and protect and not to fetter or trample on the democratic rights of the citizenry.