Following the revelation last week by former Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Tun Musa Hitam that the then Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was in Malaysia during the bloody Memali Incident on November 19, 1985, and not in China as it has been believed in the past three decades, I had called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to ascertain the truth as Mahathir had absolved himself of the death of 18 people, including four policemen, in the Memali tragedy.
Another reason I had given for a RCI to revisit the Memali Incident is because the protagonists of the Memali Incident like former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir, former Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Musa Hitam, former Inspector-General of Police, Tun Hanif Omar, former Acting Inspector-General of Police,Tan Sri Dato’ Mohd Amin bin Osman, the then Information Minister Tan Sri Rais Yatim, Deputy Home Minister at the time, Tan Sri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, the then UMNO Secretary-General Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, the OCPD Baling during the Memali incident, Tunku Muszaffar Shah and a follower of Ibrahim Libya who is now Senator Muhamad Yusof Husin from Baling, Kedah are still alive and can testify on the avoidable tragedy.
In fact, the eye-witness testimony of the Baling OCPD at time of Memali Incident, Tunku Muszaffar Shah, is itself an extra potent reason why there should be a RCI to revisit the 1985 tragedy which cost 18 lives so that the real truth could be uncovered for the nation and people.
Two years ago, Tunku Muszaffar wrote a book retailing how the bloody incident on November 19, 1985 which resulted in the death of Ibrahim Libya, 13 of his followers and four police personnel, resulted from political interference with police operations, causing the federal police headquarters at Bukit Aman to make poor decisions in its bid to arrest Ibrahim Libya after a second botched attempt to arrest him under the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960.
In his book entitled Memali: A Policeman Remembers, Tunku Muszaffar said the poor decision-making was the result of political interference and underestimation of the tenacity of Ibrahim’s followers.
Tunku Muszaffar wrote that the top officers in Bukit Aman should never take orders from their “political masters” and reject requests that are not in line with police norms or procedures.
“The discretion and action of the police as to how they would go about doing their duty should be according to prevailing ground situations,” he writes.
According to the White Paper on the Memali incident tabled in Parliament in February 1986, the government justified attempts to arrest Ibrahim under the ISA by accusing him of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Movement that aimed to topple the federal government by force.
Although Tunku Muszaffar did not document any example of political interference, he did note that Musa had issued specific orders during the first botched arrest attempt on Sept 2, 1984.
In the book, he says Musa had ordered Bukit Aman to ensure that the arresting party did not use force when arresting Ibrahim and withdraw should they encounter resistance.
Led by the district special branch chief, the arresting party went to Ibrahim’s house in Kampung Charok Puteh at 2.45am on that day, but withdrew after they were met by about a dozen people armed with sharpened bamboo poles and other weapons.
According to then Ibrahim follower Muhamad Yusof Husin’s account of the incident, which forms a chapter in the book, the botched first arrest attempt led to followers deciding to guard Ibrahim from arrest. Muhamad Yusof is at present PAS Senator representing Kedah until May 20.
In his book, Tunku Muszaffar criticised the then Bukit Aman leaders, including the acting inspector-general of police (IGP), for underestimating the resistance Ibrahim’s supporters would put up.
Attempts by a large police delegation to arrest Ibrahim at his home in November 1985 saw supporters attacking the police with firearms and sharp weapons, before the charismatic preacher was killed.
In the book, he describes such superior officers as “armchair generals” who saw it fit to arrest Ibrahim at his bastion, knowing that his supporters were waiting and some of them had shotgun licences.
There is in fact a fourth potent reason for a RCI into the Memali Tragedy of 1985, to ascertain whether it represented the first of political interferences with the professionalism, independence and integrity of national institutions under the 22-year Mahathir premiership and which is now not confined to the police and have spread to other institutions including the civil service, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Judiciary, the Elections Commission and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission; and the need and formula to de-politicise and end political interferences in these national institutions to restore public confidence in the system of good governance in Malaysia.