The New York Times (February 3, 2002) has today come out with its latest fare of information about investigations into al-Qaeda operatives, links and cells in Malaysia - which has become a daily diet in the American and international media for the past week since the Newsweek report citing the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) as describing Malaysia as “a primary operational launch-pad” for the September 11 terror attacks.
The Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai confirmed yesterday that businessman and former army captain Yazid Sufaat, 38, of Ampang has been detained for two years at the Kamunting Detention Centre under the Internal Security Act.
For the past few days, Sufaat had been the cynosure of American media reports, which quoted Bush Administration officials describing him as “an operative of al Qaeda” who “appeared to have operated as a paymaster for (Zacarias) Moussaoui”, the French national of Moroccan descent and the only man charged so far in connection with the Sept 11 attacks.
Today’s New York Times reported an unnamed “senior Malaysian official” as saying that the Malaysians have shared the information from the interrogation of Sufaat with the United States, but the FBI has not interviewed Sufaat. The Bush administration would like to extradite Sufaat to the United States, but have not made a formal request.
The New York Times reported that from the interrogation of Sufaat, the picture the Malaysian authorities are getting, “which is becoming clearer and clearer, is that Hambali was the point man for al Qaeda in this region”.
Hambali or Riduan Isamuddin, 36, who had been earlier described by Norian Mai as one of the three “directing figures” of Kumpulan Militant Malaysia (KMM) and Jemaah Islamiah, had been on the Malaysian police wanted list as far back as August last year.
The New York Times quoted the “senior Malaysian official” as describing Hambali as “the travel agent for al Qaeda in Southeast Asia” while Sufaat as “the equivalent of the person who goes to the airport with a card carrying the name of the passenger he is to meet”.
I do not know whether this “senior Malaysian official” is the Inspector-General of Police, but be that as it may, the discrimination against Malaysians where they are being told different things about police investigations into al Qaeda operatives, links and cells in Malaysia from what are told to the foreign media is completely intolerable and unacceptable.
Abdullah should direct the police to take Malaysian political leaders, both from the government and opposition, NGOs and the civil society, as well as the Malaysian people into their confidence about police investigations into KMM, Jemaah Islamiah and al Qaeda in Malaysia - and to stop discriminating against Malaysians by censoring information which are freely given to the international media.
Abdullah should also seriously consider the DAP proposal for the establishment of an all-party panel to review and evaluate the police evidence on KMM, Jemaah Islamiah and al Qaeda activities, links and networks in Malaysia so that it could issue a credible report on the threat posed by militant Islamic terrorism, national and international.
Early last month, I had written to the Inspector-General of Police asking for a briefing on the police investigations on KMM, JI and al Qaeda to DAP leaders and MPs, but no reply whatsoever has been received from Norian Mai. I would be sending a reminder to Norian Mai and it is hoped that the police would be more conscious of the need to develop a national consensus against terrorism, embracing all political parties, whether in government or opposition, religious groups, NGOs and the full cross-section of the civil society.