Is Hishammuddin Hussein headed for the top?

March 31, 2014

Is Hishammuddin Hussein, voice of Malaysia on flight MH370, headed for the top?

After a brush with death and addressing world’s media on flight MH370, Hishammuddin Hussein’s personal journey may yet take a dramatic turn

by Satish Cheney in Kuala Lumpur

 PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 March, 2014, 6:08am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 March, 2014, 7:21am


MH370: Questions for the US and its Intelligence Services

March 30, 2014

Disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370: The Trillion Dollar Question to the U.S. and Its Intelligence Services

Malaysian media should pose critical questions to the US and its Intelligence Services and not to the Malaysian Government

Let me state from the outset that I totally agree with the press statements by Malaysia’s Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that “we have conducted ourselves fairly, responsibly and history will judge us for that.”

And to a mischievous and presumptuous question from a correspondent of the Financial Times, Datuk Seri with confidence and integrity rightly said without any fear of contradiction that, “I don’t think we could have done anything different from what we have already done.”  Well done!

What technological innovation would prompt the Pentagon's military intelligence agencies to electronically interdict a civilian airliner in mid-flight, while disposing of the collateral passengers as shark bait?

What technological innovation would prompt the Pentagon’s military intelligence agencies to electronically interdict a civilian airliner in mid-flight, while disposing of the collateral passengers as shark bait?

The Financial Times, CNN and other foreign media ought to pose similar questions to the US and its intelligence services and stop insinuating that Malaysia has not been transparent and/or engaged in a cover-up. Foreign media should stop engaging in dirty politics!

 It is my hope that following the publication of this article, Malaysian mass media will focus on questioning the integrity of the US’s assistance to Malaysia in the first three weeks of the SAR mission, notwithstanding its recent offer of more assistance.

I take comfort that my reservations about the US and its intelligence services as well as other intelligence services closely linked to the US, especially British secret service, have been more than vindicated by Reuters in its news report on 28th March, 2014 entitled Geopolitical games handicap hunt for flight MH370

The search for flight MH370, the Malaysian Airlines jetliner that vanished over the South China Sea on March 8, has involved more than two dozen countries and 60 aircraft and ships but has been bedevilled by regional rivalries.

… With the United States playing a relatively muted role in the sort of exercise that until recently it would have dominated, experts and officials say there was no real central coordination until the search for the plane was confined to the southern Indian Ocean, when Australia largely took charge.

Part of the problem is that Asia has no NATO-style regional defence structure, though several countries have formal alliances with the United States. Commonwealth members Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia also have an arrangement with Britain to discuss defence matters in times of crisis.

As mystery deepened over the fate of the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew, most of them Chinese, it became clear that highly classified military technology might hold the key.

But the investigation became deadlocked over the reluctance of others to share sensitive data, a reticence that appeared to harden as the search area widened.

“This is turning into a spy novel,” said an envoy from a Southeast Asian country, noting it was turning attention to areas and techniques few countries liked to publicly discuss.

Ultimately, the only country with the technical resources to recover the plane – or at least its black box recorder, which could lie in water several miles deep – may be the United States. Its deep-sea vehicles ultimately hauled up the wreckage of Air France 447 after its 2009 crash into a remote region of the South Atlantic.

While Putrajaya has been forced to reveal some of the limits and ranges of its air defences, the reluctance of Malaysia’s neighbours to release sensitive radar data may have obstructed the investigation for days.

At an ambassadorial meeting in the ad hoc crisis centre at an airport hotel on March 16, Malaysia formally appealed to countries on the jet’s possible path for help, but in part met with polite stonewalling, two people close to the talks said.

Some countries asked Malaysia to put its request in writing, triggering a flurry of diplomatic notes and high-level contacts.

‘It became a game of poker in which Malaysia handed out the cards at the table but couldn’t force others to show their hand, a person from another country involved in the talks said.

As in the northern Indian Ocean, where Chinese forces operate alongside other nations to combat Somali piracy, current and former officials say all sides are almost certainly quietly spying on and monitoring each other at the same time. (emphasis added)

WantChinaTimes, Taiwan reported,

The United States has taken advantage of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight to test the capabilities of China’s satellites and judge the threat of Chinese missiles against its aircraft carriers, reports our sister paper Want Daily.

Erich Shih, chief reporter at Chinese-language military news monthly Defense International, said the US has more and better satellites but has not taken part in the search for flight MH370, which disappeared about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in the early hours of March 8 with 239 people on board. Shih claimed that the US held back because it wanted to see what information China’s satellites would provide.

The above is the reality which we have to confront. Therefore, desist any attempt to label the above mainstream media articles as a “conspiracy theory”. Reuters has let the Genie out of the bottle!

Malaysia’s Minister of Transport Datuk Seri Hishammuddin gave hints of Malaysia’s difficulties (as his hands were tied by intelligence protocols and or refusal by the relevant foreign intelligence services and diplomatic reluctance) but our local media failed to appreciate the nuances of his statements by not directing their questions at those parties that have failed Malaysia as their neighbour and in their duties under various defence treaties and arrangements.

Malaysian media, please read at the minimum three times, the sentences in bold AND WAKE UP TO THE REALITY that our country has been badly treated even though our country put all its national security cards on the table so that countries whose nationals are passengers on flight MH 370 could come forward with sincerity to assist in resolving this unfortunate tragedy which is not Malaysia’s making.

Malaysia is but a victim of this tragedy whose plane, MH 370 was used for a hidden agenda for which only time will reveal. 

On the 27th March, 2014, I exposed how Israel is exploiting the tragedy to create public opinion for a war against Iran, a Muslim country that has close ties with Malaysia.

At the outset of the SAR Mission, all concerned stated categorically that every scenario, no matter how unlikely would be examined critically with no stones left unturned – terrorist hijacking, suicide mission, technical failures, inadequate security, criminal actions of the pilot and or co-pilot etc.

Given the above premise, families of the passengers and the crew of MH 370 have every right to ask the following questions of the US and other countries that have sophisticated technologies to track and monitor airplanes and ships in all circumstances.

Such questions should not be shot down by those who have a hidden agenda that such queries amount to “conspiracy theories”. Far from being conspiracy theories, we assert that the questions tabled below and the rationale for asking them are well founded and must be addressed by the relevant parties, failing which an inference ought to be drawn that they are complicit in the disappearance of MH 370.

Let’s us begin.

1)        Was the plane ordered to turn back, if so who gave the order?

2)        Was the plane turned back manually or by remote control?

3)        If the latter, which country or countries have the technologies to execute such an operation?

4)        Was MH 370 weaponised before its flight to Beijing?

5)        If so, what are the likely methods for such a mission – Biological weapons, dirty bombs?

6)        Was Beijing / China the target and if so why?

7)        Qui Bono?

8)        The time sequence of countries identifying the alleged MH 370 debris in the Indian ocean was first made by Australia followed by France, Thailand, Japan, and Britain via Immarsat. Why did US not offer any satellite intelligence till today?

9)        Prior to the switch of focus to the Indian ocean, was the SAR mission in the South China seas, used as a cover for the deployment of undersea equipment to track and monitor naval capabilities of all the nations’ navies competing for ownership of disputed territorial waters? Reuters as quoted above seems to have suggested such an outcome.

10)     Why was there been no focus, especially by foreign mass media, on the intelligence and surveillance capabilities of Diego Garcia, the strategic naval and air base of the US?

11)     Why no questions were asked whether the flight path of MH 370 (if as alleged it crashed in the Indian Ocean), was within the geographical parameters of the Intelligence capabilities of Diego Garcia? Why were no planes deployed from Diego Garcia to intercept the “Unidentified” plane which obviously would pose a threat to the Diego Gracia military base?

12)     The outdated capabilities of the Hexagon satellite system deployed by the US in the 1970s has a ground resolution of 0.6 meters;  what’s more, the present and latest technologies boast the ability to identify objects much smaller in size. Why have such satellites not provided any images of the alleged debris in the Indian Ocean? Were they deliberately withheld?

13)     On April 6th, 2012, the US launched a mission dubbed “NROL-25” (consisting of a spy satellite) from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The NROL-25 satellite was likely rigged with “synthetic aperture radar” a system capable of observing targets around the globe in daylight and darkness, able to penetrate clouds and identify underground structures such as military bunkers.

Though the true capabilities of the satellites are not publicly known due to their top-secret classification, some analysts have claimed that the technology allows the authorities to zoom in on items as small as a human fist from hundreds of miles away. How is it that no imagery of MH370 debris was forwarded to Malaysia, as this capability is not classified though other technologies might well remain classified? (Source:

14)     Could it be that the above capabilities were not as touted?

15)     However, in December, 2013, the USAtlas V rocket was launched carrying the spy satellite NROL-39 for the National Reconnaissance Office, an intelligence agency which is often overshadowed by the notorious National Security Agency (NSA), only it scoops data via spy satellites in outer space. The “NROL-39 emblem” is represented by the Octopus a versatile, adaptive, and highly intelligent creature. Emblematically, enemies of the United States can be reached no matter where they choose to hide. The emblem boldly states “Nothing is beyond our reach”. This virtually means that the tentacles of America’s World Octopus are spreading across the globe to coil around everything within their grasp, which is, well, everything (Source: Voice of Moscow). Yet, the US with such capabilities remained silent. Why?

It cannot be said that it is not within the realm of probabilities that the US may not want the plane MH 370 to be recovered if rogue intelligence operators were responsible for the disappearance of MH 370.

If the above questions have been posed to the US and other intelligence agencies and answers are not forthcoming, I take the view that the Malaysian government ought to declare publicly that our national sovereignty and security have been jeopardized by the disappearance of MH 370 and that the relevant intelligence agencies have been tacitly complicit in the disappearance of MH370.

 By coming out openly to explain the predicament faced by our country, Malaysia may prevent a hostile act against a third country.

 I therefore call upon Malaysian mass media to be courageous and initiate such queries as only the US and other intelligence agencies can give definitive answers to the above 15 questions.

It is futile to demand answers from Malaysia as we are not in any position to supply the information as we do not have the capabilities of the global and regional military powers.

 Malaysians must unite behind the government so that our leaders need not feel that they are alone shouldering this enormous burden.      

Matthias Chang is a prominent Malaysian lawyer and author, who served as political secretary and adviser to former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.



Dr. M’s unbearably convenient memory

March 30, 2014

Dr. M’s unbearably convenient memory

by Terence Netto@

Predictably,(Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamed cannot quite remember whether he was in the country when the Memali incident occurred in November 1985, four years and four months into his 22-year premiership.

His Deputy then, Tun Musa Hitam, said in Kota Baru last Thursday that Mahathir was in the country, not just when the incident occurred on November 19, but also up to four days after the episode in which 14 police personnel and four villagers were killed in Mukim Siong, Baling. At that time, the Malaysian public was given to understand that their Prime Minister was abroad – in China, to be sure.

Mahathir held the customary press conference at the airport upon his return from abroad. He took questions on the Memali incident in which Police opened fire on a house where religious cult leader Ibrahim Libya was holed up with several villagers. The ensuing shootout became a cause celebre.

Pressed for a response to what Musa had said about him being in the country during that incident and then affecting to show he was not, Mahathir (right) parried his former Deputy’s implied attack on his probity with, “I can’t remember.” Mahathir pleaded his advanced years (he will be 89 in July): “Since this happened a long time ago, I need to check back to see what he [Musa] said is true.”  Mahathir has a convenient sense of recall: he remembers what it is expedient for him to remember and trots out pleas of amnesia when it suits his purpose.

At the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam videotape in January 2008, Mahathir not infrequently responded with “I don’t remember” to critical questions on his role in the matter in which a senior lawyer was captured on video attempting to fix the appointment of judges during the period of Mahathir’s tenure as Prime Minister (1981-2003).

At that time Mahathir’s infamous chiding of Malays – “Melayu mudah lupa” (The Malays easily forget) – for their supposed ingratitude came back to haunt him.

“Dr M mudah lupa,” (Dr M easily forgets) became his critics’ catch-phrase of raillery against him when it was seen that the former PM’s powers of recall were conveniently self-serving.

Musa’s motive

Musa HitamPolitical observers are wondering about the motive of Musa, a one-time ally-turned-opponent of Mahathir’s in raising a matter that took place almost 29 years ago. They ought to wonder no more.

Musa (left) is attempting a block. He knows Mahathir wants Prime Minister Najib Razak out as PM. The incumbent PM is beleaguered by the disappearance of flight MH370, now three weeks into the greatest mystery in civil aviation’s history.

The circumstances of the plane’s mysterious disappearance with 239 people on board places Najib, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi and Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein on notice of grave lack of fitness to hold office. Incidentally, all three of the abovementioned individuals are stalling points in the career path of Mukhriz, the Menteri Besar of Kedah, regarded as inheritor of the Mahathir mantle of national leadership.

In most countries in the world, North Korea excepting, an incident like MH370’s disappearance would have had the trio of Najib, Zahid and Hishamuddin with their necks on the chopping block. Not Malaysia where the 47 percent of the voters who endorsed the ruling BN coalition in the general election last May are embodiments of the validity of the philosopher George Santayana’s dictum: “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat.”

Command and control

Twice in the recent days Mahathir has talked about matters that bespeak a desire to return to a command and control role in Malaysian politics. First, he advised that the government should get ready to tackle a financial crisis and trotted out his expertise at prescribing for just such a malady.

Days after this advice, analysts toted up expected losses to the economy from the suspension of the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 because of flight MH370’s disappearance, and from the anticipated further bleeding of our already loss-hobbled national carrier, MAS. They said it would be RM4 billion at the very least.

The second alarm Mahathir sounded was even more unsettling. He said that if he were to return as PM, he would censor the internet which would be a clear violation of the bill of rights he vouchsafed cyber practitioners when inaugurating the Malaysian Multimedia Corridor in 1996.

Well, no prizes for guessing what the former PM would say if reminded of his promise of no restrictions on freedom to publish on the internet: “I can’t remember.”

It has become a mantra of the man who had ruled the country for 22 years (1981-2003) during which he built it up physically and emasculated it morally. The country’s problem is that it has enough masochists who may want more of the same. Not Musa Hitam, though.


Ground the RMAF over MH370 Fiasco

March 29, 2014

Ground the RMAF over MH370 Fiasco

by Mariam Mokhtar@

 The RMAF has failed everyone on board MH370 and let down a whole nation.


Seven years ago, two RMAF jet engines disappeared and ended up in South America. That loss was never fully explained. The Defence Minister in 2007/8 was Najib Tun Razak.

Today, a passenger jet with 239 people on board has also disappeared. The circumstances of each are different but the way in which we handled the situation, and the manner in which our leaders dismissed our concerns, is worrying. It is business as usual after the event.

The price of irresponsibility has been high as we have seen in MH370. Lessons must be learned but Malaysian leaders must stop the art of saving face and start facing up to their responsibilities for once. Undoubtedly, several heads must roll.

hishammuddin-hussein-in-lahad-datu-300x225Last year when the Sulu army invaded Lahad Datu, the response from the erstwhile Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (left) was pitiful, “it is only a ragtag bunch of old men having a picnic”.

He ignored the fears of the public. They questioned the role of intelligence gathering and the poor air and sea defences which had failed to note the invasion by armed and uniformed Sulu militants.

The questions I posed last week remain unanswered: “Where was the RMAF when Flight MH370 traversed Malaysian air space in the early hours of Saturday March 8, 2014?” and, “How did the radar operator know from the radar blip that the plane was non-hostile?”

Military radar signals showed that after MH370 disappeared from civilian radar the plane climbed sharply to 45,000ft, higher than the approved ceiling for the Boeing 777, before turning sharply to the west and descending to 23,000 ft. The plane then climbed again this time heading north-west towards the Indian Ocean.

What did the radar operator and the air force do with this information? The “non-hostile” plane acted strangely with funny twists and turns in the air. These must have been the first signs that MH370 was in trouble.

A few days ago the Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri made a rash statement and said that the air force assumed that Flight MH370 had been ordered to turn-back by the civilian air traffic controllers.

The following day when he was attacked for making this statement Abdul Rahim backtracked. He said that he had made this assumption. This U-turn is a typical tactic of the government of Malaysia.

Now Malaysians will not learn whether the RMAF really made this assumption or Abdul was forced to retract his statement and become a fall-guy for the RMAF which is being widely criticised for its apparent blunders.

Common sense mistake No 1: Never assume. The popular urban definition of assume is “Don’t make an ass out of u and me.”

The Air Gorce radar operators failed to double check with the air controllers in Subang. Is it beyond their intellect and curiosity to make a quick phone call?

Local of communication

Perhaps, they were not at their radar screens. Remember the MACC staff who were implicated in Teoh Beng Hock’s death? Their work computer hard drives showed that they were surfing pornography and shopping sites, instead of working. The consequence of making assumptions has been the loss of 239 lives. Precious time was wasted. If only fighter jets had been sent to intercept the unidentified aircraft.

This is what Abdul Rahim said in Parliament: “The turnback was detected in our radar, only we thought the turnback was done by MAS, an aircraft that was not hostile or a friendly aircraft, so we thought maybe it’s an order from control tower.”

“….only we thought…..!” In any civilised country, the public outcry would have demanded the mass resignations of the Defence Minister, his Deputy, the Chief of the Armed Forces, the RMAF Chief, and the Prime Minister. If this had been a wartime situation, Abdul Rahim and all the squadrons of air force planes could have been obliterated.

Common sense mistake No 2: Not keeping abreast of news and not reading enough. Are the radar operators unaware that the two passenger jets which were deliberately flown into the New York Twin Towers were the weapons of death and destruction? In a hypothetical scenario what if a passenger jet had traversed Malaysian air space and hurtled into the Petronas Twin Towers, or other sensitive locations?

Common sense mistake No 3: Never assume that the rakyat are as clueless as the Defence Chiefs. Abdul Rahim Bakri failed to mention the lack of communication between civilian and military aviation authorities. Was he hoping we would not remind him?

On March 12, military radar detected an aircraft some 200 miles northwest of Penang in the Straits of Malacca. At 2.15am on the same day it went missing. We are told that there was no way to determine if the blip was MH370.

Chief of the RMAF, Rodzali DaudThe Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) chief Rodzali Daud (left) claimed that Malaysia was working with experts to confirm that blip was the missing plane. The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Director-General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman explained that the primary radar used by the military could only show the presence of an aircraft and nothing else.

The chief of the Armed Forces Zulkifeli Mohd Zin claimed that the unidentified aircraft was first noticed in the spot where MH370 had disappeared. He claimed he ordered ships to be despatched from Lumut that night towards the suspected location of the aircraft. He then claimed that a C-130 plane was sent to scout the area the following morning.

Air-space is unprotected?

If none of the military brass were aware what the blip meant that night why was Zulkifeli confident enough to despatch ships to that particular location? Was he simply making a remark after the event to pretend he had done something useful? What made him think he was looking at a potential crash scene that night? What else is the military hiding from us?

Why did they make a mistake with the time? MH370 was in trouble an hour into the journey.Is the radar viewed in real time or was the radar operator looking at recorded radar information? If it is not in real time, then are our skies open to invasion?

We know that security checks and passport controls are lax. No wonder Najib Tun Razak wants to guarantee that his spouse, the self-styled First Lady of Malaysia, travels safely on private jets when flying overseas.

More importantly, it appears that our air-space is unprotected. Perhaps, it is time we grounded the Air Force or rename it the Royal Myopic Air Farce. The RMAF wasted those first few hours. We could have at least known where to look for MH370. The RMAF has failed everyone on board MH370 and let down a whole nation.

Mariam Mokhtar is a FMT columnist.

EurAsia Golf, 2014: Asia and Europe share Honours

March 29,2014

EurAsia Golf, 2014

Congrats to Thongchai Jaidee and his Men for for a strong comeback to share the Inaugural EurAsia Cup

Asia's Team for 2014 EurAsia Cup, 2014EurAsia Cup, 2014: Captain Thongchai Jaidee and his Magnificent ASIA Team

Asia rallied from a 5-0 whitewash on the opening day to share the inaugural EurAsia Cup with Europe with a strong performance in Saturday’s singles matches in Kuala Lumpur.

Thongchai JaideeAsia Captain Thongchai Jaidee in Action

Trailing 7-3 after Friday’s foursomes, the Thongchai Jaidee-captained Asian team won six and halved two of the 10 singles matches to tie the scores at 10-10 for a share of the spoils.

Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Hideto Tanihara of Japan were the last men on the course and both had a chance to wrap up the tie on the final hole but after missing tricky birdie putts, their match and the teams finished all-square.

Thai duo Thongchai and Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Indians Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar, South Korea’s Kim Hyung-sung and Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh all won their singles matches for Asia.

“Every part of my team was unbelievable to come back, fantastic,” an elated Thongchai told reporters. “Everyone played really well. I think the match is unbelievable, it was a good finish.To end on the last, and on the 18th hole, it’s fantastic. I have never seen a match like this. It’s very close and amazing.We had a good draw and good pairings, I think that’s the key point.”

Europe’s Spanish captain Miguel Angel Jimenez and Dutchman Joost Luiten were the only two winners for their team.Jimenez needed to dig deep to beat local favourite 23-year-old Nicholas Fung with a birdie on the 18th hole.

“It’s an amazing day of golf,” the 50-year-old said. “It’s been very tough. At the end of the week, the European team did not win the tournament but the Asian team, they played very well. As I said in the prize giving presentation, Asia, Europe, they both win, nobody loses.”

Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who partnered Graeme McDowell to victory in the fourballs and foursomes, gave up a four-hole lead over Prayad Marksaeng and had to be satisfied with a half point.

“I played so well at the start,” said the unbeaten Donaldson, whose tally of two-and-a-half points in the tournament was matched only by Jimenez.

“I flushed it for nine holes and then I don’t know if the heat got to me a little bit, but I hit some shocking shots and gave him a few holes.It was good to get a half in the end. It was important to hole that putt for the team and for my match, but I made it very difficult.”

The tournament will return to Malaysia in 2016 but the course for the second running of the event has yet to be finalised.–Reuters

Musa’s Memali Disclosure is of Reverberating Significance

March 29, 2014

Musa’s Memali Disclosure is of Reverberating Significance. But Why Now after 29 Years?

by Terence Netto@

TDM--21 March

“Long time observers well know that there is a big difference between appearance and reality in Malaysian politics. In the wake of the disappearance of flight MH370, now three weeks in a vanishing act into the ether, they may come to realise that in the surreal world of Malaysian politics, reality is more fantastic than the imagination.”–Terence Netto

The claim by former Deputy Prime Minister  Tun Musa Hitam that his boss, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was at the time of the Memali (in Baling) incident in November 1985 at home and not abroad is a matter of reverberating significance.

What Musa’s motives are for making such a claim – and that, too, almost 29 years after the incident – are not as important as the truth of the claim in itself. We can expect that the combative former Prime Minister will respond with alacrity to Musa’s claims which were made at a forum in Kota Bharu on Thursday night.

It would be interesting what Mahathir says in response to Musa’s claims because the latter is not someone given to irresponsible statement. Musa is not known to be inventive with the truth but he is not known to be elucidating either. He will be 80 next month, but there are only telltale signs of a memoir in the worksMusa though it has been 28 long years since his resignation as Deputy Prime Minister in February 1986.

Indirection is the mode in Malay political discourse, a motif that inhibits candid disclosure and, you could say, memoir-writing. That and the Islamic command to forgive combine to retard the work of historical reconstruction which is necessary for those who come after to make any sense of what had taken place in the past.

Without this coming to terms with history, citizens are at the mercy of demagogues and charlatans with an attitude towards history much like Humpty Dumpty’s towards language: “A word (read history) is anything I say it means.”

One of nation’s most violent incidents

Musa’s assertion that the then Prime Minister was in Malaysia and not in China during the time of the Memali incident, which occurred on November 19, 1985, is a momentous one. There were 18 deaths in the Memali incident, 14 of them incurred by Ibrahim Libya and his followers and four were to police personnel.Ibrahim (right) – the ‘Libya’ sobriquet was acquired from his tertiary education in that country – was a religious cult leader who had a following in Baling, Kedah.

On the morning of November 19, police surrounded the hamlet where he and followers had set up a commune.

Police wanted Ibrahim to surrender but a standoff resulted and when the cops charged the compound of his house, shooting broke out, leaving 18 dead in what was regarded as the most violent episode in our history since 16 Police Field Force personnel died in a single engagement with communist terrorists near the Malaysia-Thai border in 1976.

A stunned nation received the news of the Memali incident with the apprehension that comes from sudden awareness that barbarous currents were underfoot in the country of which a beguiled public were only dimly aware and a political leadership in denial were loath to tackle.

That feeling was fortified by the recall of the violent attack with swords and other crude weapons on a police station in Batu Pahat in 1980 by members of a religious cult.

Also uneasily recalled were the series of attacks on Hindu temples in 1978 perpetrated by young Islamic zealots on a deity-destroying campaign that culminated in several deaths when the marauders were interdicted by vigilantes on guard at a temple in Kerling, near Kalumpang on the Selangor-Perak border.

At the time of the Memali incident, the public were given to understand that Mahathir was in China.

When he returned, he fielded questions at the customary press conference at Subang airport where he was asked on the Memali incident.

Generally, in remarks to an expectant press, Mahathir defended Home Minister Musa’s decision to allow the Police to interdict the hamlet in Mukim Siong where Ibrahim Libya and his followers were holed up.

Days later when PAS proclaimed the deaths of Ibrahim and his followers as “mati syahid” (martyrs), Mahathir rubbished the pronouncement in the teeth of word, unreported in the mainstream media of course, that Malay villagers in Kedah and Kelantan were streaming to the Ibrahim’s burial site to pay their respects.

‘Musa ordered assault’

Mahathir’s support of Musa’s judgement call on Memali would take a perverse turn 18 months later, in the intense final week of the campaign for posts in the Umno elections of April 1987, when the then chief secretary to the government issued a statement that it was indeed Musa who gave police the order to open fire in the Memali incident.

Musa scrambled to contain the damage from that politically motivated disclosure.

Musa would go on to lose his UMNO Deputy President’s post by 45 votes to challenger Ghafar Baba while Musa’s teammate in the campaign, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, would be 43 votes adrift of incumbent Mahathir’s tally for the President’s post.

Thus ended a momentous chapter in the history of UMNO and the Malaysian nation but the argument between two of that contest’s principals, Mahathir and Musa, is set to continue, given Musa’s claims about Mahathir being in the country during the Memali incident when it was supposed he was abroad.

Long time observers well know that there is a big difference between appearance and reality in Malaysian politics. In the wake of the disappearance of flight MH370, now three weeks in a vanishing act into the ether, they may come to realise that in the surreal world of Malaysian politics, reality is more fantastic than the imagination.