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MGG: A Political Football For UMNO
By M.G.G. Pillai
7/8/2001 7:05 am Tue
[Tangkapan anak TG Nik Aziz kerana berpengalaman tentera adalah tidak
wajar kerana dia menentang komunis yang memang dimusuhi oleh Malaysia.
Lagipun kerajaan merestui penglibatan sukarela sepertinya dulu. Mengapa
sekarang itu dipandang tidak elok pula?
Dengan istilah mujahidin dan fundamentalis Islam, Mahathir mungkin
mampu menggoda Bush untuk menemuinya. Tetapi itu belum tentu lagi
berjaya kerana diplomat baru A.S. bukan sebarangan orangnya dan Bush
amat berhati-hati kerana baru menerajui negara. Apa yang menarik FEER
tidak menarik balikpun lapuran risiknya mengenai hasrat Mahathir menemui
Bush. Bertemu dengan Mahathir yang baru sahaja berpeluk dengan Castro
tentunya akan menjejaskan imej Bush dan mengundang kemarahan rakyat
Mahathir kini menghadapi masalah reputasinya yang semakin memburuk
di mata dunia. Kalaulah dia berjaya menemui Bush pun reputasinya tidak
akan pulih semula. Ia sudah tercalar sejak Anwar dilebam, dipenjara dan
kini menderita akibat sakit belakang yang teramat peritnya. Setiap kali
keadaan Anwar disebut imej Mahathir semakin teruk tercela. Mahathir sudah
semakin tiada kawan di saat dia amat memerlukannya kerana ekonomi negara
06 August 01
A political football for UMNO
When Malaysian Muslims, mostly from PAS, volunteered to fight
against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan in the 1990s,
Malaysian newspapers indeed welcomed it. But not only from PAS,
others from UMNO and ABIM, the youth body, also volunteered.
The government did not object, indeed suggested then it was part
of a Muslim's duty to shed blood in a jihad in the name of Islam.
Some did go, what they did we do not know, and returned to
anonymity. What they did or do, we do not know.
One thing is certain: they underwent some military
training; a guerrilla must know what to do with a rifle or a
bazooka or how to throw a handgrenade. So, if they fought in
Afghanistan, they knew how to use weapons. Are they involved in
what the police accuse them of? We do not know. But the arrests
come when UMNO and the Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamed, is
challenged as never before. It is seen by many not as a national
seen as a national security threat but as a political move and
The deputy prime minister and home minister, Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi, says this group is a threat, the government would not
have acted if it was not, did not discount further detentions.
The deputy home minister, Zainal Abidin Zin, carries the refrain
further: the police would act against any militant group
irregardless of who is involved. Ten PAS members have been
detained, one of whom is the 34-year-old son of the Kelantan
mentri besar, Nik Aziz Nik Mat. There could be more.
So, when the Inspector-General of Police, Norian Mai, ever
so casually said this group, called Malaysian Mujahidins, with
its connotations of fundamentalist Islam on the country's
doorstep, is out to create mayhem and worse, and involved in
high-profile murders and robberies his men could not yet solve,
it became a political football in UMNO's struggle for political
Deux et machina
When did the police realise this group was criminal and
bloody? Like the Al-Maunah group, many of whose leaders are now
on trial, the Malaysian Mujahidin does suggest a deux et machina
to help the government and UMNO out of a political difficulty.
So, the detentions raise more questions than answers. PAS
rightly dissociated itself from the violence the police blamed on
it. If this is a violent group out to destabilise the country,
the government come up with a full statement. Abdullah Badawi,
even if he is unaware of the arrests until after the fact, as he
insists of all ISA detentions, must have ordered them detained
under the ISA and not charged them in court.
That the ISA is used raises doubts. If, as Norian Mai
insists, it is involved in murders, violence and worse, they
should be tried in the courts. If this police has a cast-iron
case, as it should to allege all this, it must consign them to be
the criminals they are, and not hide under the ISA, which in the
nature of the extra-constitution law acts in secret. As in the
Anwar Ibrahim affair, violence is frequently used -- in Anwar's
case, by the IGP himself -- without anyone to answer for.
This is not to imply this group does not exist nor the
political agenda the police claims it has. The timing is
suspicious. Few believe the police version since it behaves
confrontationally on the side of the government's political
agenda and not by the rule of law. If it is as serious as it
claims, it should have been in a more official channel, say
Parliament, to announce it, and not as an aside at an irrelevant
press conference , as now, after a function the deputy prime
minister or IGP attended.
When the Soviet-backed administration was routed, and an
Islamic govenment took over in Kabul, the infighting between the
various Islamic factions led to a civil war in which the Talibans
eventually won. On all sides were mujahidin from foreign
countries, especially the Middle East, the intensity in part to
it being a holy cause.
Dissatisfied and unemployed guerrillas
But the Taliban victory threatened to create uncertainties
in the land of whence the mujaidin came from. Muslim nations in
the Middle East would not allow the mujahidin amongst its
citizens to return. A large group of potentially dissatisfied
but well-trained and unemployed guerrillas can destabilise any
society. So, they remain in the region, and India claims many
killed in Kashmir were mujahidin from elsewhere continuing their
cause to liberate this state for Islam.
Norian Mai is right when he said those who went to
Afghanistan to fight on the side of the anti-Soviet forces were
trained. In Malaysia, retired Malaysian soldiers resort to
violence and robberies: many armed gangs are made up of these
men. At one time, in the 1970s, the Malayan Communist Party
engaged retired soldiers to fight for them, an act which forced
the government to improve their pension schemes. So, the
government's claims of a Malaysian mujahidin could not all be
false. But it is curious Abdullah insists he would act only if
it is serious. I would have thought that in national security,
prevention is more important than the cure.
But did the government think through this? It should have
followed the arrests immediately with a detailed White Paper
explaining why it is dangerous and other post ipso facto
justifications. What we have instead is senior ministers,
including the deputy prime minister and home minister, stating
the government's good intentions, that it would not act unless it
was serious, that it would not arrest until it has proof.
All this is well and good. But it goes against the grain of
Malaysia's international posture. The European Parliament wants
Malaysia to stop the preventive detention, as under the ISA, of
political opponents. The foreign minister, Syed Hamid Albar, and
other cabinet ministers, decry conditions the US puts before
President George W Bush would meet Dr Mahathir.
That he wants an invitation to the White House is not
disputed. But when he would not meet the US ambassador for five
years while he criticised Washington in international forums, and
which intensified when the Clinton administration decried
Malaysia's treatment of its former deputy prime minister, Anwar
Ibrahim, bilateral relations cannot change because there is a new
occupant in the White House.
The Mahathir and Anwar factor
It is doubtful he could see President Bush in Shanghai when
APEC meets later this year. He would meet some Asian leaders,
but from ASEAN, it would probably be four heads of government --
from Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan -- and China.
Dr Mahathir denies he wants to meet Bush, to make that even less
of a chance of it.
A columnist in The Sunday Sun (05 August 01) said the Far
Eastern Economic Review's report of Dr Mahathir wanting to meet
Bush in Shanghai is false. He wanted more. He is, if his travel
plans hold, due at the UN General Assembly. He needs this call
on President Bush to show he is back in favour in the White
He is unlikely to get it. The Bush administration has its
sights on Latin America, its Middle East policy is half-baked,
its Asian worldview linked to China more than Japan, and it
strays into Southeast Asia, it is to Singapore, its regional
satrap in defence, and Indonesia.
So, it raises an interesting conundrum. Are the detentions
to show the United States it is firm about fundamentalist Islam
if it rears its head in Malaysia? Or to show that while it must,
for political reasons, move towards a clear Islamic presence in
his administration, it has no truck with fundamentalist Islam?
Or are the detentions to c##k a snook at Western Europe and the
United States to declare that it would do as it pleased, come
hell or high water.
The Prime Minister is due in Germany, as present plans
stand, where he would be queried on why he would not allow Anwar
out for medical treatment. And why arrested all these people
under the Internal Security Act. Indeed, he would face
opposition wherever he goes in Europe or the United States.
So internal dissent is entwined with external relations.
It should not be, but Malaysia makes use of external diversions
to contain internal problems, not with panache but as a rabble
rouser. Its attacks on the United States is misplaced. It
should not have, not when the US has provided, during the Cold
War, a nuclear umbrella and is its largest trading partner.
Malaysia was so carried away by Dr Mahathir's rhetoric that it
did not see which side its bread is buttered.
And this comes home to roost with a vengeance. So the
arrests must be seen also as a deliberate attempt to damn its
critics overseas and, pardoxically, mend bridges by saying it
would be harsh on fundamentalist Islam. But it is not one, in
present circumstances, that would earn Dr Mahathir credit. He
must now decide if he should go to the UN General Assembly and to
Shanghai for the APEC summit. If he does not meet President Bush
at either, he must find other ways to assuage his reputation.
That is why there is doubt about the claims about the Malaysian