Memali incident: I don't remember Musa asking me to stay - Dr M

Memali incident: I don't remember Musa asking me to stay - Dr M
KUALA LUMPUR: Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that he did not recall being advised against going to China during the Memali incident in 1985.

“I don’t remember that (former deputy prime minister) Tun Musa (Hitam) came to see me to ask me not to go to Beijing but he was at the airport with many others to bid me goodbye before I left to China. During that time also, I do not remember that Tun Musa advised me not to go out of the country,” wrote Dr Mahathir in his official blog, Chedet, on Thursday.

Dr Mahathir’s writing was his first response since Musa spoke on the incident during a forum held in Kelantan, recently. 

Almost 30 years after the incident, Musa had last month revealed that Dr Mahathir was in Kuala Lumpur, and not in China as previously claimed in the official account, during the incident which claimed the lives of 14 civilian and four policemen.

Musa had claimed that Dr Mahathir was in the country for “two three days”, even though the former had asked the latter to stay back.

“In the meeting I had asked Dr Mahathir to postpone his trip to China as the incident happened in Kedah, his home state, it involved Muslim Malays and by postponing his trip, he will give the perception that he prioritise and cares about domestic issues,” Musa had said.

'I was confident in Musa'
On Thursday, Dr Mahathir, in his posting entitled ‘keselamatan negara’(country’s security) said that when he was the prime minister, the security of the nation was both handled by his deputy and himself.

“Sometimes I would hold on to the position of Defence Minister and the deputy prime minister would hold the Home Ministry that was responsible for the police. Sometimes when I so determined, I would as the prime minister take over the Home Ministry and the deputy would be appointed as the Defence Ministry. Only a few times during desperate situations when the Defence Ministry was given to a normal minister. This practice was because the defence of the country was so important,” wrote Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir added that on November 20, 1985, he had headed a delegation as he felt that there was a lot of business opportunities with China that had just opened itself to foreign investors.

“The Memali incident occurred on November 19, 1985, one day before I was to fly. Of course in  a police operation such as this, accidents can happen. Four policemen were killed and 16 criminals. There were many who were injured.

“I was so confident that the deputy prime minister would be able to handle the situation that I appointed him the acting Prime Minister,” said Dr Mahathir, disputing Musa’s recent claim that he was not the acting prime minister at the time.

Dr Mahathir said before he returned on November 28 that year, Musa was the one who answered in Parliament on the Memali incident.

According Dr Mahathir, there was nothing that happened that could not be signed by the deputy prime minister who at the time assumed the role of the prime minister.

“A position has its responsibilities. In terms of the action against criminals, the responsibility lies with the police. In terms of decisions to taking action on national security threats, the Minister is responsible, or at least endorses the actions.

“Tun Musa had admitted that he was responsible. In a cabinet system that we practice, all the members of the cabinet, especially the Prime Minister, is responsible," stated Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir said he never thought that Musa could have predicted the loss of life following the decision he made.

“What is known is that Musa was the Home Minister and deputy prime minister at the time. As the home Minister, the negotiations and report by the Inspect-General of Police is made to him. The Home Ministry is also involved in deciding the action that is to be taken.

“When an admission of responsibility is made only when everything goes well, then of course it is not so nice”.

The bloody Memali siege

During the November 19, 1985 incident, about 200 policemen clashed with some 400 supporters of local Islamic sect leader Ibrahim Mahmud, who was killed in Baling.

The policemen were ordered by the Home Minister to arrest Ibrahim Mahmud, also called Ibrahim Libya, under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for spreading deviationist teachings and threatening public order then.

The incident claimed the lives of 14 people from that village including four policemen, and left dozens other injured, while hundreds were arrested.

For years, Musa, who was then the Home Minister, was blamed over the incident as he had reportedly took charge of the operations as the Home Minister while Dr Mahathir was apparently in China for a visit.

PAS described all those who died as martyrs.

On Wednesday, the Parliament had rejected a motion by PAS to debate a formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to probe the Memali incident and to retract the white paper on the incident.