by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The various initial comments of the Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar on the Bali bomb blasts, a crime against humanity and the worst single terrorist attack since the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington last year, were in very bad form, poor taste and downright outrageous, making nonsense of the various ASEAN Declarations on terrorism in the past 12 months.
For instance, Bernama reported Hamid’s press conference after opening the Consuls General/Honorary Consuls Conference on Monday “advising…all parties to let the Indonesian authorities investigate last Saturday's bomb blasts in Bali before linking the incident to terrorists”.
Hamid said such speculations would only worsen the situation and could be
manipulated by certain parties to depict that security in the region was
What made the Malaysian Foreign Minister to come out with such a bizarre and outlandish response, as if the heinous and dastardly massacre of some 200 lives and the injury of another 300 could be anything else but callous terrorism?
While it is conceded that it could not be immediately known who were the perpetrators of the crime against humanity in Bali on Saturday night although there were many suspicions, this could not be the reason for Hamid to issue a public advice to Malaysians and the world not to jump the gun to link the Bali bomb blasts to heinous acts of terrorism unless he is privy to certain information which he should now reveal to the nation.
Malaysians are entitled to know why the Malaysian Foreign Minister should have entertained doubts that the Bali bomb blasts were heinous acts of terrorism.
It was most fortunate that no Malaysian was a victim of the Bali bomb blasts – but would Hamid have come out with such a bizarre statement if Malaysians had been among the casualties of the terrorist attacks?
Hamid’s insensitivity was further compounded when he asked the Philippines Government to apologise to Malaysia for its ”rash action” over the allegation by a 13-year-old girl that she was raped while being held at a temporary detention depot in Sabah – on the ground that she was a Malaysian and not a Filipino.
Many right-minded Malaysians think that if anyone should apologise, it should be the Malaysian government, for deporting one of its own citizens and if anyone should receive an apology, it should be the girl in question.
But the pertinent question here is why should Hamid be raising this issue which paled into insignificance in ASEAN relations with the worst terrorist attacks since September 11 taking place in Bali, with all the adverse far-reaching repercussions for the well-being of all ASEAN countries.
Even if the Malaysian Government wants to pursue the issue of mistaken claim of nationality by the Philippines Government over the 13-year-old girl, it should be another time and place so as not to make nonsense of the various ASEAN Declarations on Terrorism since September 11, such as the November 2001 ASEAN Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism made at the ASEAN Summit in Brunei and the Joint Communique of the Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Terrorism in Kuala Lumpur in May 2002.
Yesterday, Hamid said the bombings in Bali could have been prevented if Indonesia had a security law similar to the Internal Security Act (ISA) to deal with terrorists.
After advising the people not to link the Bali bomb blasts with terrorism, has Hamid come round to the view that they were perpetrated by al Qaeda linked groups like Jemaah Islamiyah and that if their leaders like Abu Bakar Bashir had been detained without trial under laws like the ISA, the Bali bomb blasts could have been averted?
As an immediate upshot of the Bali bomb blasts, the Thai Prime Minister has said that Southeast Asian leaders would meet this month ahead of Asian-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Mexico on October 26-27 to discuss combating terrorism in the region while the Philippines President has offered to host a regional anti-terrorism conference in Manila, with participation from countries among the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean), the United States, Australia, Japan and other nearby countries.
All these efforts at regional post-mortems, like the various ASEAN Declarations on Terrorism, would be of no avail unless there is a hard-headed recognition that the Bali bomb blasts are powerful testimony of the failure of the international war against terrorism a year after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and that Southeast Asia has become a very dangerous place which will drive away foreign investors and tourists from the region.
The question is whether the Bali bomb blasts would serve as a triple wake-up call to the United States, ASEAN and Malaysia that the international war against terrorism was being waged badly, especially as the root cause of terrorism are not being addressed whether internationally, regionally or nationally and that the Bali bomb blasts are the strongest argument against any unilateralist and pre-emptive United States war against Iraq so that the international war against terrorism do not become inextricably equated with a war against Islam.
*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman