However, what bothers Malaysians is that while Mahathir is right in objecting to the description of Malaysia as "a primary operational launchpad" for the 911 terrorist attacks, the Malaysian authorities are not really disputing facts and contents of the Newsweek report.
Newsweek said that US intelligence sources believe that former army captain Yazid Sufaat, detained in Kedah on December 9 last year and one of the 23 held under the Internal Security Act for allegedly being involved in the second militant wing of Kumpulan Militant Malaysia (KMM), was a member of the Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiah and helped develop a support network for chief terror suspect Osama bin Laden in Malaysia and throughout Southeast Asia.
According to the Newsweek report, Yazid held a meeting in his Kuala Lumpur condominium in January 2000 with top associates of bin Laden in accordance with instructions given to him by an Indonesian cleric with ties to al-Qaeda, the Saudi dissident's terror network.
Two of those in attendance - Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhamzi - surfaced in the United States where they enrolled in flight school and later piloted the plane that struck the Pentagon. Later in 2000, Yazid hosted French national of Moroccan descent Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man charged so far in connection with the Sept 11 attacks.
Yazid gave Moussaoui letters of employment as "marketing consultant" for Infocus Tech, which were found in his Minneapolis apartment, and agreed to pay him US$2,500 a month during his stay in the US along with a lump sum of US$35,000 to get him started
Last December, Malaysian investigators discovered that Yazid had ordered four tons of ammonium nitrate, a powerful explosive, for the Jemaah Islamiah in Singapore to build a fleet of truck bombs with 21 tons of the material. In comparison, Timothy J. McVeigh used two tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil for the Oklahama City bombing in 1995 which killed 168 people.
The Newsweek report said Yazid was suspected of being a member of Jemaah Islamiah, accused by neighbouring Singapore of planning to bomb the US embassy and other Western targets in the island state.
Most of these information are no more news in the foreign media although they are seldom or hardly reported in the local media.
Although the Prime Minister railed against the foreign media for being unfair in their reporting, the Malaysian authorities continued to be partial to foreign correspondents as compared to the local reporters, giving exclusive information to the foreign media denied to the Malaysian media and which Malaysians would read or learn about in the foreign press for the first time.
For instance, the Foreign Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar told a foreign press last week that the KMM was planning to attack a U.S. naval vessel during a rest stop in Malaysia but that the plot was broken up before September 11. This is news to Malaysians.
The government has been given mixed and confusing signals about the existence of al Qaeda operatives and cells in Malaysia. For six months, Malaysian police and government told the nation and the world that al Qaeda had no links, connections or cells in Malaysia, but suddenly in January this year, the government not only admitted that the al Qaeda network had recruited about 50 Malaysians into its operations in the interview of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad published by the Japanese magazine Chuokoron on January 10, this figure of the number of Malaysians with links to al Qaeda has quickly escalated to another 200 in a matter of two weeks.
The latest Time magazine (issue 4th February 2002) reported that the number of 200 could be low according to “a former KMM foot soldier, who quit the organization two years ago after disagreeing with its plans to wage a violent campaign to instal an Islamic government in Malaysia”, claiming that there were 45 in his group alone and that “there were many, many groups sent for training” and that “if the police say there are 200 more KMM members out there I think they must mean only the leaders”.
What is the truth. Is the figure of KMM and even al-Qaeda operatives going to continue to be escalated until come the next general elections, it will be in the region of thousands?
The Malaysian government owes to the Malaysian people first duty to give a fully frank and truthful account of the KMM, Jemaah Islamiah and al Qaeda activities, links and networks in Malaysia and not to give any suspicion that vital information is being manipulated whether because of partiality towards foreign media, foreign policy dictates or for blatant domestic political ends.
For these reasons, DAP proposes an independent commission to review the police evidence on KMM, Jemaah Islamiah and al Qaeda activities, links and networks in Malaysia and to issue a credible report on the threat posed by militant Islamic terrorism, national and international.