Government should present a White Paper in Parliament on Sept. 2 to present its case to Malaysians and the world  that it is doing well in combating terrorism and an update report on  Jemaah Islamiah and the al-Qaeda’s “third generation” militants

Media Statement
Lim Kit Siang

(PenangFriday): Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday sought to allay concerns over Malaysia's ability to combat terrorism by asking sceptics to look at the country's record in reining the menace.

He said the government had taken various measures to ensure that terrorists would not destabilise nor threaten the security of the country.

He said: "We're doing as best as we can and so far, I believe we're doing well."

Unfortunately, this is not the international perception as reflected by the rise in harassments experienced by  Malaysians  when they go overseas, whether for travel, business or studies,  especially the United States and United Kingdom,  where they are subjected to intensive search at immigration and long questioning.  This was  reminiscent of the treatment of Arabs and Muslims  immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks when it was discovered  that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia.

This is in fact the strongest reason why the Government should present a White Paper in Parliament when it reconvenes on Sept. 2 to present  its case to Malaysians and the world  that it is doing well in combating terrorism and an update report on  Jemaah Islamiah (JI)  and the al-Qaeda’s “third generation” militants following the recent arrest of Hambali, al Qaeda’s top man in Asia and operations chief of JI. 

The White Paper should be followed by the first comprehensive debate in Parliament to mark the second anniversary of the  September 11 terrorist mass murders in New York and Washington, which had changed the international security and geo-political landscape  – which would be the first such debate in Parliament in the past two years.

Although Abdullah blamed  certain  Indonesians granted permanent resident status in Malaysia for having inspired the involvement of Malaysians in al-Qaeda and JI, this seems rather simplistic.  In any event,  Malaysia’s problem is the international perception of the important Malaysian connection to al Qaeda and JI  with three Malaysian JI operatives in US custody who are or will end up in Guantanamo Bay detention base in Cuba and two  Malaysians top on the wanted JI list for the Bali and Marriot hotel bombings, namely   Dr. Azahari  Husin and Noordin Mohammad Top – both of whom are believed to be  among the likely  candidates to take over the helm of Jemaah Islamiah after the capture of Hambali.  

Recently, terrorism experts have expressed their concern at  the emergence of al Qaeda’s  “third generation” of terrorists,  “radicalized by 9/11 and the Iraq War” -  “who have never been in Afghanistan, has  seen its predecessors achieve ‘martyrdom’ with a level of violence that it will seek to emulate and surpass, perhaps ushering in the much-feared age of mass-casualty terrorism”. 

They worry that the “much-vaunted” arrest of Hambali, though a coup in both the wider war on terror and the campaign against JI, “might not prove to be as decisive a blow as hoped”,  as he might have been forced to delegate operational responsibilities because of the pressure arising from being South-east Asia’s most-wanted men. 

These terrorism experts point out that JI, like al-Qaeda, has an ability to regenerate itself in the wake of losses.   Whilst leadership can be eliminated, those organizations do not necessarily cease functioning as they comprise networks of loosely organized terror groups which have no single, integrated, command structure to penetrate.   

As a new generation rises through the ranks to replace senior personnel now compromised, unknown characters and personalities will make it harder to detect activity and predict behaviour. 

These are issues and challenges which should also be addressed by the White Paper on Terrorism, which is long overdue, and the concern of Members of Parliament.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman