(Penang, Thursday): CNN special programme “Jihad in Asia?” last night said that two previous al Qaeda terrorist plots in Malaysia, together with one each in Indonesia and Singapore, had been foiled.
Members of Parliament, whether government or opposition, must unite to demand that the government give full details in Parliament of the terrorist threat posed by al-Qaeda, including the two previous al Qaeda terrorist plots in Malaysia which CNN said had been foiled in the country.
Members of Parliament must also make clear that it is totally unsatisfactory and unacceptable that Malaysians, including MPs, continue to be denied crucial and critical information about the biggest pre-occupation of the people in the country, region and the world post-911, viz the threat of terrorism, and that Malaysians have to glean whatever information relating to the country from the international media.
Malaysians need such information to decide whether it is right and proper for the establishment of the US-proposed Malaysia-US regional anti-terrorism centre in South-East Asia.
Furthermore, in an information age, the government should show greater respect for the fundamental right to information of Malaysians, which must be accepted as an integral democratic and human right of Malaysians, as information should not be dished out to suit the partisan interests of the incumbent coalition, as for instance, bombarding the electorate with all sorts of unverified information about the al-Qaeda terrorist threat in the run-up to the next general election to stampede the voters to vote for the ruling coalition purportedly to counter the terrorist threat.
The CNN special programme yesterday had given considerable new information from various intelligence sources, including Malaysian, about the al Qaeda terrorist threat to Malaysia and South-east Asia, and MPs and the Malaysian people are entitled to know the government’s position on these revelations.
Apart from the reference to the two previous al-Qaeda terrorist plots in Malaysia which had been foiled, other noteworthy information include:
Al-Qaeda operatives, working with various homegrown groups in the Southeast Asian countries, have stockpiled at least 12 tons of explosives in the region: (I) 4 tons in Malaysia; (ii)4.6 tons in the Philippines and (iii) at least 4 tons in Indonesia;
One day before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States last year, Kuwaiti-born Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, “a personal choice of Osama bin Laden”, was sent by al-Qaeda to Southeast Asia to activate sleeper-cells in the region. Jabarah, who is now in US custody after his arrest in Oman in June, has been identified together with Indonesian explosives expert Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi (currently serving 12-year jail sentence in Philippines for illegal possession of explosives) as the “two foreigners” behind the plot to blow up American and Western embassies in Singapore after 911.
Intelligence reports from across Southeast Asia say authorities are still searching for at least 14 other Al-Qaeda operatives.
Intelligence sources fear maritime terrorism with maritime attacks on ships and ports on the Malacca Straits, a highly strategic sea-lane that carries one-third of the world’s trade and 80 per cent of Japan’s oil.
Malaysia was the venue for a major four-day meeting of key al Qaeda operatives in January 2000, which was “one of the planning sessions” for the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000 and the September 11 terrorist attacks. Hosted by Hambali, those who attended the meeting included Tawfiq bin Atash, top suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole, two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Khalid al-Mindhar and Nawaq al-Hazmi, and the “20th hijacker” Ramzi bin al-Shibh. The CNN report said that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has been fingered as the “mastermind” of the September 11 attacks and is now on FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list with the offer of US$25 million reward for his capture, lived in Malaysia in the mid-90’s and “in 1999, Mohamad had met with one group of September 11 hijackers in Germany, and a few months later, the second group in Malaysia”.
One terrorism analyst (not Rohan Gunaratna) had written:
“For the past decade, Malaysia has allowed the use of and penetration of their country by international terrorist networks; as long as they did not plot against Malaysia, their presence was tolerated.”
Whether such criticism is valid and whether it is one reason for the ready agreement of the Malaysian government for the siting of the the US-proposed regional anti-terrorism centre in the country, the time has come for the government to take the country and Parliament into its confidence and be more open and transparent about the al Qaeda threat to Malaysia and the region.
An all-party consultative council on terrorism and a parliamentary committee on terrorism should be set up to address and monitor this critical national, regional and international issue and send out the clear message that it transcends political party differences and interests.
*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman