Malaysia should review upgrade for the  security of the OIC Summit  as the Sabah kidnapping, Hamid’s admission that Arafat could not be guaranteed safety and KLIA security lapse have  raised legitimate concerns

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaWednesday): Malaysia should review  upgrade for the  security of  the forthcoming Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit as the kidnapping of six foreigner workers from a Sabah island resort on Sunday, the Foreign Minister’s admission that  Yasser Arafat could not be guaranteed safety and the KLIA lapse last Thursday have raised legitimate concerns on this score.

Although the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi  has rightly said that the kidnapping of six foreigners from a resort in Lahad Datu had nothing to do with the security of the OIC Summit, it would not be so easily dismissed by the foreign leaders and their security entourage.

Furthermore, the reasons given  by the Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar why  Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would not attend the OIC Summit had intensified  these security preoccupations.  Hamid said Malaysia feared that Israel will issue an order to shoot Arafat or prevent him from returning home. (The Star 6.10.03).

The latter reason that Arafat might not be allowed back  is well-known and universally accepted, and is why Arafat had been confined to his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah for some 22 months. It was for the same precise reason why the Burmese Opposition Leader, Aung San Suu Kyi would not leave Burma even when her husband Michael Aris was dying of  cancer  in Oxford, United Kingdom in March 1999.  The Myanmese military junta had offered to allow her to travel to Oxford  to see Michael  on his deathbed as she had not seen him for three years. But she refused, for fear that the government would not allow her back into the country.

However, when Hamid raised the former possibility, that Israel might issue an order to assassinate Arafat while attending the OIC Summit in Malaysia, it raises the question of the security not only of Arafat but also other OIC leaders when in the country.

The third incident of concern was the security lapse at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last Thursday, where wires of a MAS A-330 passenger plane bound for Perth with 300 people,  were found tampered with and cut.

The outburst by the Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir who  castigated  the local  media  for "putting sand in our rice bowl" in the coverage of the kidnapping incident is not helpful at all. 

He said the government spent millions of ringgit on advertisements to woo tourists but by blowing up a small story like that into an international issue would have a negative impact on the country's tourism industry.

Kadir said the abduction of three Indonesians and three Filipinos by 10 men brandishing automatic assault rifles from the Borneo Paradise Eco-Farm Resort, 39km from Lahat Datu, was only a minor incident just like robberies being staged in Kuala Lumpur, but had become an issue and had attracted international attention when it was played up by the local media.

"This is a crime that happens daily like what happens here. Their aim is only to get ransom money but has been blown up by the media as though it is an emergency case.

"The foreign media will take this opportunity to tarnish Malaysia's image, branding it as an unsafe place to visit.

Kadir should realize that even before the local media carried the kidnap story on their front pages, the story had already made international headlines from the CNN, BBC, ABC and foreign print media.

Even if the local media had  “blacked out” the kidnap story, there is no way to stop the  international media from giving  it world exposure.

The answer lies in strengthening security for the Sabah island resorts and not  by trying to suppress the local media or  blame the international  media for being part of an worldwide  conspiracy to wreck Malaysia’s tourism industry or economy.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman