DAP calls for White Paper on terrorist threat as Malaysians want credible information on KMM, JI and al Qaeda presence in the country just as the government is asking for information on terror warning from the United States
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): DAP fully supports the demand of the Malaysian government to the United States to provide information to back up its claim that the country could be the target of a Bali-style terrorist attack.
The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, had described as “baseless” the latest “terrorist alert” of the US Department of State dated 20th November 2002 which warned that attacks similar to last month's Bali bombing which killed nearly 200 people could take place in other Southeast Asian nations including Malaysia.
Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the Treasury has been directed to monitor the effects on the country’s economy and foreign investment flow after some countries had issued travel advisories warning their citizens against visiting Malaysia.
The much-maligned terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna, in his visit to Malaysia at the invitation of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Isis) over the weekend, said the US may have singled out Malaysia because of specific information gathered from the interrogation of the recently-captured al Qaeda chief of operations of the Persian Gulf, Abd al-Rahim al-Nishiri, who helped plot the suicide attack on US destroyer Cole and trained the terrorists who blew up US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
As the United States wants Malaysia’s consent and co-operation to set up an US-Malaysia Regional Anti-Terrorism Centre in the country, the least Malaysia expects is full co-operation in intelligence information-sharing as to why the US had profiled Malaysia in its latest “Terrorist Alert” warning on Southeast Asia.
However, just as Malaysia is right in demanding information from the United States on its “Terrorist Alert” profiling Malaysia, Malaysians are also entitled to information from the Malaysian Government on KMM, Jemaah Islamiyah and al Qaeda networks or presence in Malaysia especially as the country seems to have catapulted to a very prominent place in the international radar screen on terrorism with all the recent foreign travel advisories blacklisting Malaysia.
On August 18 last year, some three weeks before the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Abdullah said in Pontian that Malaysia was being seen as a “new centre for Islamic terrorism” following the first spate of some 10 Internal Security Act arrests for alleged involvement with KMM, a militant Islamic group with international terrorist links and implicated in bank robberies, murders and bomb explosions.
Abdullah said foreign visitors were not interested to know about the economy but want to find out how serious were the militant activities here for fear of affecting their investments and interests.
In early November last year, the Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Malaysia was not a transit point for international terrorists including the al Qaeda and that it was wrong to paint the country in that manner as implied by some parties.
Today, the situation is much worse than August or November last year, as Malaysia appears to have acquired the reputation of a new centre of terrorism if not a transit point for international terrorists, with hardly a day passing by without Malaysia being mentioned on CNN or the international media in one way or another in the news on terrorism.
For instance, Imam Samudra, whom the Indonesian police said had admitted to be the mastermind of the Bali bombing and participation in a spate of church bombings across Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000 which killed 19 people and an unsuccessful attack on a church in Jakarta last year, has Malaysian permanent resident status and had studied and later taught at a religious school, Al-Tarbiyyah Al-Islamiyyah Luqmanul Hakiem Madrasah in Ulu Tiram, Johore, and later married a Malaysian woman.
Questions have been raised, not only by Malaysians, as to why the two most notable terrorist arrests recently, Imam Samudra and al-Nashiri, were enroute to Malaysia when they were apprehended, as reported by the international media, such as:
(1) From the New York Post: "Al-Nashiri, a close associate of Osama bin Laden and one of the top 10 al Qaeda leaders, was arrested as he was fleeing Yemen for Malaysia following the CIA's dramatic missile strike Nov. 3 on a car carrying six key al Qaeda terrorists. "
(2) From The Australian: "Samudra, whose real name is Abdul Aziz, told General Bachtiar he was trying to flee to Malaysia via south Sumatra and the island of Batam when he was arrested late on Thursday."
In the latest international media reports, such as Time magazine and the Singapore Straits Times, Samudra (whom the Indonesian police said has confessed to masterminding the Bali blasts as “This is a sacred struggle, not a heinous one…Allah is great”) was described by intelligence experts as not belonging to the “top tier of the operation, the real generals, not the foot soldiers or even the sergeants and captains like Samudra”. And a Malaysian was suspected to be one of the two or three who are the “top guns” of the Bali bombing, “the true masterminds – the bomb builder and his bosses, the conceptualizers and the funders of the operation”.
In these circumstances, the Malaysian government must fully respect the right of Malaysians to information about the terrorist threat in the country in the same way it expects its request for information to the US government to be taken seriously.
For this reason, DAP calls on the government to issue urgently a White Paper on the terrorist threat as Malaysians want credible information on KMM, JI and al Qaeda presence in the country especially as the Malaysian authorities have been making a lot of confusing and contradictory statements about the terrorist threat.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman