Throwing pebbles in the glasshouse, Continuum

The ghost of Christmas past, is coming back haunting because of the obsessed man-possessed tried to spook his anointed successors, once too many times too often.

Joceline Tan’s column in The Star:

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Memali tragedy blame game goes on

 Old wounds were reopened by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s rather nonchalant account of the bloody clash in 1985, and PAS wants a Royal Commission of Inquiry for the truth to be told.

IT was 1996, the editor of the newspaper I was working for then was upset about a story I had written about some overnight millionaires in a Felda scheme and, as punishment, sent me on an assignment to Baling, Kedah.

I was rather annoyed but, in hindsight, it was an eye-opening encounter with a less than familiar world and also the “other world” because I woke up in the government resthouse the next morning to find the laces of my sneakers completely undone and strung over a chair. I could only assume that it was the work of a playful ghost.

I was there to report on the 40th anniversary of the Baling Talks. But Baling is also where the Memali tragedy happened in 1985 and I would have driven right past Kampung Memali had it not been for the dead lamb on the road.

As I slowed down, I saw the house, its walls plastered with the PAS moon and political slogans blaming Umno for the Memali bloodbath. It was the home of the late Islamic preacher Ibrahim Mahmood aka Ibrahim Libya, the PAS leader killed in the Memali clash. He had revolution in his heart and had become a political threat to the authorities who accused him of deviationist teachings.

As I snapped photographs of the house, a bespectacled man of about 20 emerged, glaring at me. His name was Hazbullah and he was the eldest son of Ibrahim Libya. Like many PAS supporters in the village he was suspicious of outsiders after that dark day when 14 villagers and four policemen died in a violent confrontation.

It was quite a poignant moment when Hazbullah said he would never forget the day when the headmaster of the school in Pakistan where he was studying took him aside to say that “my father had died in a holy war”.

The dead lamb on the road that day was an uncanny metaphor of how Ibrahim Libya had been portrayed as a sacrificial lamb. Emotions were still very raw then and the locals spoke about it in hushed tones.

The sense was that they were still trying to come to terms with the tragedy. There was sympathy even among those who did not approve of Ibrahim Libya’s politics. A nurse I met spoke of oil drums used to collect the donations pouring in and she had gestured to show how women ripped off their jewellery to donate.

At the sekolah pondok (traditional religious school) that Ibrahim Libya started, the headmaster was puzzled that an outsider would be interested and had personally shown me around the modest school.

There was a poster of Ibrahim Libya at the entrance of one of the rooms and I was intrigued at how a blue curtain segregated the secondary level girls and boys who shared a classroom.

I read up on Memali after returning from Baling and pored over photographs from the incident – bodies of the victims, including Ibrahim Libya wrapped in white sheets and laid in a row on mats, a woman weeping as she confronted security personnel and “weapons” seized from the group.

They were hardly what one would call weapons – more than a dozen parang, catapults, sickles used to tap rubber trees and some crude molotov cocktails. Apart from the molotov cocktails, the rest were common items in any rural household. They struck me as weapons of defence rather than weapons of attack.

It was all so long ago and Memali was buried at the back of my head until this week.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s take on Memali at his “Nothing to Hide” forum last Sunday revived long-buried resentment about Memali. It had to do with the rather matter-of-fact tone he assumed, that lack of remorse and his habit of blaming others for the wrongs of his administration. PAS leaders felt their blood boil with his claim that police retaliated after the villagers attacked them.

“There is no point talking about this black mark in history without repenting and seeking forgiveness or correcting the situation,” said PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang who has neither forgotten nor forgiven those responsible for what happened.

PAS politician Zuhdi Mat Piah, whose father was shot at 14 times during the Memali clash, also lashed out at the former premier: “Your hands are covered with the blood of the victims of Memali. Although it was not you who shot and killed them, they died because of your order,” he said.

Zuhdi’s father survived his injuries and was detained under the ISA together with 30 others. He said villagers were “gunned down in front of their families, beaten up like animals and piled into trucks like garbage”.

PAS has always rejected the Memali White Paper, saying it was “full of lies”. Moreover, the White Paper has been compromised by the fact that Dr Mahathir had perpetuated the myth that he was overseas at the time of the clash. It was only in 2014 that he admitted he was actually in the country but continues to blame his then deputy Tun Musa Hitam.

PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man has called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to do justice to those who perished. There was no closure, the wounds have not healed even after so many years and our politicians keep trying to rewrite history to suit their agenda.

The calls for a RCI are growing louder and it is not without basis because there are many out there who deserve a credible account of what happened. Dr Mahathir should welcome it – who knows, it might actually clear him of blame.



It was said the Police ultra-heavy handedness in the operation of that fateful 19 November 1985 was really unnecessary, despite that the clergyman Ibrahim “Libya” Mahmood and his supporters were classified as “Dangerous religious extremists”.

I was also said more than 3,500 Policemen, which include members of Field Force Battalions and Federal Reserve Unit were despatched and involved in the operation.

It is important to find out exactly who issued the order to storm into the kampung, especially when there were children, women and old folks in the incident area.

RCI may also determine who were exactly in the loop of information as the development of the operation happened till the point where armed Policemen with assault rifles in V150 armoured mechanised infantry vehicle stormed through the barricades set up by Ibrahim’s men.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Dato’ Sri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that the Federal Government is wiling to consider a Royal Commission of Inquiry be set up to properly investigate the Memali Incident.

The Malay Mail Online story:


DPM: Govt willing to set up RCI on Memali incident



Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the government is ready to set up a royal commission of inquiry to probe the Memali tragedy in 1985, if there is demand from any quarters. — Bernama picDatuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the government is ready to set up a royal commission of inquiry to probe the Memali tragedy in 1985, if there is demand from any quarters. — Bernama picTAIPING, Aug 20 — The government is ready to set up a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to probe the Memali tragedy in 1985, if there is demand from any quarters, including families of the victims, says Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said the law must be upheld and the party responsible, held accountable.

“As home minister, I will personally study all the reports on the incident,” he said when opening the Bukit Gantang Umno division delegates conference here today.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Umno vice-president said that in upholding the law, all quarters should set aside political differences.

In the Memali incident on Nov 19, a total of18 people, among them four policemen, were killed and many others injured after the police launched an operation to arrest a religious teacher, Ibrahim Mahmud, who was popularly known as ‘Ibrahim Libya’.

Ahmad Zahid said former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam in his book entitled, ‘Frankly Speaking’ stated that he was instructed to abolish Kampung Memali because there were elements of violence and militancy committed by PAS leaders.

In this regard, Ahmad Zahid said the leader who had said he was not in the country on the day of the (Memali) incident needed to admit that he was indeed, in the country at the time.

“The Memali incident happened over two decades ago, but we have to keep in mind that the victims, families (and) children were denied their rights by the then-government,” he said. — Bernama



History has shown that in the example of the Al Maunah Incident where some religious deviants under Muhammad Amin Razali seized 97 M16 assault rifles, more than 9000 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition and order ordinance from a border army outpost North Eastern of Perak on 2 July 2000.

Amin and had 30 men, fortified themselves at Bukit Jenalik off Kuala Kangsar.

The Police Special Branch personnel the first intelligence to approach the fortified position of the Al Maunah bandits. Despite captured, the Police despatched a highly trained incursion commando detachment to carefully approach the Al Maunah position.

Although there were trained commandos with tactics similar to the British Special Air Service (SAS), the Policemen were taking the less aggressive tactics in resolving the matter.

Then Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad instructed the Army Field Commander Lt. Gen. Dato’ Sri Zaini Mohamed Said to storm the hell held by Amin’s men, in Operation Dawn.

“Resolve the matter, today!”.

Lt. Gen. Zaini despatched four Condor armoured personnel carrier filled with Army Commandos into Amin’s position, despite Police Commando UTK) Chief Inspector Abdul Razak Yusof and his men who were already engaging some of Amin’s men to surrender.

“Get them to surrender without a firefight. We will know what would be the outcome of a firefight”, in words of the Chief of Field Force SAC Abdul Hadi Mahmud.

It is not totally impossible the same happened in Kampung Memali, instead of a more softer approach to get Ibrahim and his men to surrender, in time after the pressure of a blockade.

“It should be at the discretion of the Ground Commander”.

The Police who were involved opined that the objective to arrest Ibrahim could be done in other ways besides decision in the operation at Kampung Memali.

Dr. Mahathir in his response to the Memali Incident in last week’s failed forum ‘Nowhere 2 Hide 2’, said that if anyone attacked the Police in their duty, then they must be prepared to face the consequence.

This is the first time in over thirty years, a Home Minister representing the Federal Government to consider an RCI with High Court authority by consent of His Majesty Seri Paduka Yang DiPertuan Agong to conduct an open investigation.

Everyone is free to testify, which include retired Police officers be it the operation or at Head Quarters. Of course, then Home Minister Tun Musa Hitam would be in the centrepiece.

Regardless, RCI on Memali Incident should have been done because eighteen men, all Malaysians, lost their lives for a Police operation.


Published in: on August 20, 2017 at 23:30  Comments (3)