What Malaysians and the world want is a White Paper on Al Qaeda and KMM rather than on Al-Ma’unah which has been the subject of a public trial

Media  Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that the government will produce a White Paper on the Al Mau’nah arms heists.

What Malaysians and the world want is a White paper on Al Qaeda and KMM rather than on Al-Mau’nah which has been the subject of a public trial.

The Cabinet at its first meeting of the new year tomorrow should focus attention on regional and international concerns not only at the failure of the Malaysian authorities to crack and neutralise any Al Qaeda cell in Malaysia, but the government stance that there are no  Al Qaeda cells in the country, which was first stated in Parliament by the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin on 14th October 2001 and repeated  by the Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday.

Najib dismissed as unfounded the claims that the KMM is linked with the Al Qaeda movement, although he conceded the possibility  that local militants may have  international contacts  with overseas terrorists.

Cabinet Ministers in Malaysia, however, are getting notorious for  not being the most knowledgeable persons about security and intelligence matters, as even the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi could commit  the faux pas in September last year  of publicly  showing ignorance of the CNN report immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that one of the suicide hijackers had been seen on a surveillance tape from Malaysia meeting with a man suspected of being implicated in the terrorist  attack on the warship USS Cole in Aden, Yemen in October 2000 which killed 17 sailors and injured 39 others - and which has now been confirmed by the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai!

For this reason, Norian Mai should come forward to make a considered statement as to whether it is true that the Police have established to its satisfaction that there are no Al Qaeda cells or presence in Malaysia.

This  is very pertinent to  national and international confidence about the professionalism of the police in dealing with the threats of international terrorist activities affecting Malaysia, especially as the Al Qaeda presence in Malaysia had been the subject of open and public discussion in the international intelligence community even before the September 11 terrorist attacks - as in the Jane Intelligence Review article dated 26th  July 2001 and the book The New Jackals - Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the future of terrorism by Simon Reeve.

Furthermore, the   latest Jane Intelligence Review 01/2002 article on “Al-Qaeda: The Asian Connection”  warned  that although Al Qaeda’s network in the United States, Europe and East Africa has been disrupted significantly as a result of investigations and widespread arrests, its  network of cells and support structures in Asia - including Malaysia - remains virtually intact, both before and after September 11.
Yesterday, the Asian Wall Street Journal (7.1.2002) reported that the latest batch of arrests of 13 Islamic militants in Malaysia and 15 in Singapore were the result of information provided by “prisoners in Afghanistan”.

The AWSJ report quoted “Asian intelligence officials” as saying that “Singapore and Malaysian security agencies are co-operating closely to investigate suspected radical Islamic groups in both countries”  and that “Police believe that such groups have cross-border ties and are influenced by Indonesian Islamic extremists with connections to the al Qaeda movement”.

The AWSJ report also said that Singapore intelligence officials were tipped off to the existence of an Islamic militant cell in late November, after Afghanistan's Northern Alliance forces obtained the information from a captured Southeast Asian Muslim who fought with the Taliban.

The AWSJ reported that the Malaysian arrests were largely the result of long-term surveillance of one of the 13 men who came under suspicion because he had an apparent connection to Khalid al-Midhar, one of the suicide  hijackers of the plane that hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11.  Midhar and three other suspected foreign al Qaeda militants visited Malaysia in January 2000 and stayed in an apartment just outside Kuala Lumpur that is owned by the now-detained Malaysian.

According to the AWSJ, Malaysian police surveillance tapes of Midhar's activities in Kuala Lumpur were handed over to U.S. intelligence officials at the time. Police continued to keep watch on the Malaysian apartment owner, who has a degree in biochemistry from a U.S. university, but didn't move to arrest him.
Police lost contact with the suspected militant in June 2001, when he left for Pakistan. The man was picked up when he tried to reenter Malaysia overland from Thailand in early December.  Acting on information learned from interrogation of the suspect, Malaysian police detained 12 more suspected KMM members and seized documents on guerrilla warfare and map reading, along with studies of militant Islamic groups in the Philippines, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Indonesia.

Is Najib correct, then, when he declared yesterday that there are no Al Qaeda cells or presence in Malaysia?

A  White Paper on Al Qaeda and KMM is most imperative to deal with the many unanswered  questions since the first batch of KMM arrests in August last year.

The first question is about the existence and the identity of KMM - which the Police had originally referred to as Kumpulan  Mujahideen Malaysia  but later dropped it in favour of Kumpulan Militant Malaysia, although the latest Jane Intelligence Review 01/2002 article still referred to Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia.  What does this confusion imply?

During the initial arrests, the  KMM was accused of being implicated in crimes such as the  murder of the Lunas State Assemblyman Dr. Joe Fernandez in Bukit Mertajam on November 14, 2000, the bombings at Dataran Seni in Klang, planting of explosives at the Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, bombing of a church, Hong Leong Bank branch and mini-market robberies in Petaling Jaya Old Town, bid to rob the Guar Chempedak police station in Yan, Kedah of weapons and the attempt to rob the Southern Bank branch in Petaling Jaya.

The New Straits Times of 20th September 2001 reported that the police believed that Zid Sharani Mohamad Esa, 30, from Parit,  the one Malaysian out  of the 13 persons arrested by the Indonesian authorities in September for suspected involvement in a series of bombing incidents in Indonesia the previous year, was involved in the murder of Dr. Joe Fernandez.

Mingguan Malaysia (6.1.2002) reported that Zid Sharani has been served with a formal two-year detention order under the Internal Security Act beginning last Saturday, after he was surrendered to the Malaysian authorities by the Indonesians on November 7 last year.

Malaysians want to know whether the police has established who were the murderers of Dr. Joe Fernandez and if so, why no one has been charged in court so that the full force of the law could be brought to bear on the perpetrators.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman