(Penang, Sunday): One year after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States,
Malaysians and the world are discovering that they are living in more
dangerous and not safer times.
The carnage at Kuta Beach, Bali one year, one month and one day after the September 11 terrorist attacks, killing some 200 people and injuring another 300, the worst terrorist incident since September 11, 2001, is
testimony of the failure of the American-led international coalition and war against terrorism, whether to eradicate al Qaeda or to address the root causes of terrorism.
This double failure was vividly brought home in the past week by the admission of the CIA Director George Tenet at the joint US congressional hearings on Friday that the threat posed by al-Qaeda was as serious as
before last year's September 11 attacks and that al Qaeda was in an "execution phase" and intended to strike American targets overseas and on U.S. soil as well as the wave of terrorist incidents, particularly in South
East Asia, in the past month.
The current wave of terrorist attacks in Bali and almost daily terrorist incidents in the Philippines have also brought home to Malaysians our personal and economic vulnerability as a South East Asian people and nation.
Yesterday, the United Kingdom joined Australia, the United States and other countries to warn their citizens that Malaysia is one of the high-risk countries in Southeast Asia to visit as they are likely terrorist targets a warning confirmed by none other than the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.
Speaking at the end of his three-day visit to India, Mahathir admitted that Malaysia could be the next target for international terrorists. He said: "In the case of terrorist activities, you can never determine where they are going to attack next. Of course, Malaysia may be subject to the same kind of attacks as in Bali and Philippines."
Although this comment by Mahathir was not reported by the Malaysian media, it was given extensive coverage in the international media, including the BBC.
This is the time for greater unity and resolve to face the national and international crisis of terrorism. For this reason, DAP calls for an all-party National Conference on Terrorism to achieve a national consensus to condemn terrorism as against the Malaysian way of life and equally important, that the best way to counter terrorism is to enlarge democracy and human rights and not the reverse.
Mahathir is right in telling US President Bush that the American-led war against terrorism was going badly, in particular, in failing to address the root causes of terrorism, and that a unilateralist pre-emptive US military strike against Iraq to force a "regime change" would only compound the mishandling of the war against terror and create a world-wide fertile ground to breed recruits for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda by strengthening the belief that the US war against terrorism is nothing but at war against Islam.
However, Mahathir has not been able to practise in Malaysia what he has preached to Bush to address the root causes of discontent and alienation in the Malaysian society and in particular, ensuring that the fight against terrorism in Malaysia is not turned into a clampdown on justice, fair play, the rule of law, democracy and human rights.
Despite the existence of Suhakam, there has recently been an increased spate of human rights violations and undemocratic practices, best illustrated by the gross abuse of police powers in the past few months in the five unlawful police actions arresting 32 DAP leaders and activists and trying to criminalize legitimate political and constitutional "No to 929" campaign of the DAP to defend the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the social contract and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement that Malaysia is a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive nation with Islam as the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic State, whether ala-UMNO or ala-PAS.
Yesterday, the Police in Kuala Lumpur arrested two Anti-ISA Movement (AIM) activists for distributing anti-ISA leaflets in front of the Kuala Lumpur Central Market. Has Malaysian democracy become so fragile and brittle that the distribution of pamphlets opposing the Internal Security Act to the public has become a national security risk capable of bringing down law and order in the country?
What is even more disturbing is the statement by the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim in Kuala Klawang yesterday that the Internal Security Act would be amended to provide "absolute powers" to the Executive to determine matters pertaining to national security, to make it beyond a shadow of doubt that as far as national security is concerned, the "judge" is the Executive and not the court.
This is clearly the Barisan Nasional government's response to the landmark unanimous Federal Court judgment on Sept. 6 providing for an objective instead of a subjective test on grounds of ISA detentions, and which held that the police detentions of the reformasi activists, Mohd Ezam, Tian Chua, Hishammudin Rais and Saari Sungib under the ISA were mala fide and unlawful - not to uphold the rule of law but a last nail in the coffin to bury the rule of law as far as judicial review of executive abuses and excesses of power under the ISA.
It is most sad and ironic that Rais, whose doctoral thesis which was published as the book entitled "Freedom Under Executive Power" was an eloquent indictment of the ISA as the suppression of the rule of law and denial of fundamental liberties should now be the very person responsible for the final ouster of the rule of law as far as the ISA is concerned.
If the Barisan Nasional government does not regard the fight against terrorism as a convenient expedient to clampdown on democracy, human rights and the rule of law, then it should refer the proposal to make the ISA even more draconian than at present to an all-party conference on terrorism.
In the past two days, the country has been up in arms against the UN Security Council report, Second Report of the Monitoring Group Established Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1363 (2002) and Extended by Resolution 1390 (2002), purportedly based on terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna's book Inside Al Qaeda, Global Network of Terror.
Up to now, no MP has got a copy of the controversial report which was submitted to the Security Council on Sept. 19 and prepared by a five-member group headed by E.G. Chandler of the United Kingdom with four "expert members", Hasaan A. Abaza, Victor Comras, Philippe Graver and Surendra Shah.
According to international media reports, the Monitoring Group also named Malaysia as one of the countries where al Qaeda is suspected of having bank accounts under the name of unidentified intermediaries and that private donations to al Qaeda, estimated at $US16 million a year, are believed to "continue, largely unabated".
The report said that the global campaign to block al Qaeda's access to money immediately after the September 11 attacks has stalled, enabling the terrorist network to obtain a fresh infusion of tens of millions of dollars and putting it in a position to finance future attacks.
Although the United States and other UN members moved to shut down al Qaeda's financial network, freezing more than $US112 million in assets belonging to suspected members and supporters of the organization, only $US10 million in additional funds have been blocked over the past eight months.
The report said that al Qaeda continues to draw on funds from the personal inheritance of Osama bin Laden as well as investments and money "diverted or embezzled" from charitable organizations, and that al Qaeda backers in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia managed at least $US30 million in investments for the group, "with some estimates ranging as high as $300 million" reportedly includes money from Mauritius, Singapore, Malaysia,
the Philippines and Panama.
The government should make copies of the UN Security Council report available to Members of Parliament and to all political parties, as this is an issue which concerns not just the Barisan Nasional or the government but
The controversial UN Security Council report is serious enough to warrant a Ministerial statement by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Parliament tomorrow, the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry on Terrorism in Malaysia and an all-party Conference on Terrorism to build a solid national unity and consensus against terrorism transcending partisan interests or advantage.
*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman