Malaysia’s Militant Headache
Image Credit: Rizuan

Malaysia’s Militant Headache


Tawau is a quiet little place – and possibly the remotest city in Malaysia. Tucked away near the Indonesian border in the state of Sabah, it’s well known in diplomatic circles as a Malaysian transit hub between Indonesia and the Southern Philippines.

It’s also a favorite stop over for pirates, smugglers, mercenaries, illegal workers and the Darul Islam movement, whose roots can be traced back to Indonesia’s independence almost 65 years ago. Since then, Darul Islam has spawned a litany of Muslim militant groups like Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

Most who pass through continue on, but some stay to stock-up on supplies, reload and plan for another day as authorities found out when 13 suspected terrorists were arrested in Tawau last month under the Internal Security Act.

Among them were seven Malaysians, five Indonesians and a Filipino, all of whom were initially labeled as suspected members of JI and alleged to be gathering weapons and bomb making material from The Philippines to be used against the Singaporean Embassy in Jakarta.

“The arrests…raise fresh concerns over the threat of a terrorist attack utilizing small arms and targeting foreigners,” says Todd Elliott, a security analyst with Jakarta-based Concord Consulting.

He also says that according to his sources, it was likely not the first time the Umar group had attempted to smuggle firearms into Indonesia from the southern Philippines, allegedly with the assistance of corrupt Philippines police officers and Umar’s son, who is said to be a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group. Other plans included a plot to kidnap a police officer to exchange for other militants under detention and to “start activities that would be harmful to the country.”

The arrests and pending prosecutions have landed the authorities in an unwanted political mess.Local journalists and analysts have been warned not to speculate, and religious parties like PAS have been urged not politicize the arrests. Rights groups, meanwhile, are disturbed the police used the ISA to make the arrests after Prime Minister Najib Razak announced he would repeal the widely loathed law.

The Sabah branch of the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) reacted strongly, saying all 13 were members or supporters and called on police to either release or charge them.Under the ISA, police can detain indefinitely without reason.

PAS was rebuked for admitting foreigners to a Malaysian political party with Chai Kim Sen, Youth Secretary General of the Chinese dominated MCA, saying it “should be left to the police to decide whether the persons arrested are missionaries or terrorists.”

“The security of our country is at stake here…PAS and its allies in Pakatan Rakyat should not politicize the issue further by making up lies and distorting the truth,” he added, referring to opposition groups.

The Abolish ISA Movement and human rights group Suaram then took aim, condemning police and the government for using the ISA, which they said was regrettable and contradicted Razak’s pending abolition of a law introduced by his party after Malaysia gained independence in 1957.

“What is the rationale behind the detention? Is the prime minister trying to fool the people of Malaysia with his hypocritical attitude? The PM should be ashamed of this arrest,” they said in a joint statement.

JI is largely defunct, splinter groups have emerged to replace it and they have been prominent in Indonesia, where attacks have focused on small local targets like isolated police stations and even a mosque. The 13 were arrested as they swore allegiance to Kaltim, also known as the Abu Umar group.

December 6, 2011 at 11:27

JamesMasang wrote:

December 5, 2011 at 2:05 am

UMNO’s Policy to Islamize Malaysia
There are very few people privy to the overall policy of the Malaysia government. Malaysia is not run by the Barisan Nasional-the country is run by the United Malay Nationalist Organization (UMNO) that gathers support from rent seeking patronage. The other two main coalition partners MIC (Indian) and MCA (Chinese) are basically passengers.
This is very true. Unfortunately, Malaysia has been from the start a Malay ruled country. Sabah and Sarawak are ruled like colonies by the Malay majority who can only be described as arrogant. But in comparison with the British colony Sabah and Sarawak are treated much worse. The Chinese were certainly much better off under the British colonial rule. The British colonial government had employed many Chinese and the government was relatively efficient and corruption free. But after federation the government became corrupt and especially became anti-Chinese. Many ethnic Chinese immigrated to Sabah and Sarawak under British colonial rule. But such immigration came to a complete stop after Malaysian federation. In 1963 the proportion of Chinese in Sabah was around 35%. Today it is less than 10% and still declining. The reason is the anti-Chinese policy that discourages the immigration of new Chinese while encouraging Chinese to leave. Any Chinese who can have sent their children overseas to study and then seek citizenship in the new country. Many have also returned to their ancestral homes in China.

The result is a stagnant economy while uncontrolled illegal immigrants flood in from Indonesia and Philippines. By some estimate there are as many illegal immigrants as there are citizens. Security is becoming dangerous as thieves terrorize residents. I think Sabah would be better off with a federation with Singapore. It can also be better off by becoming independent with a protectorate relationship with China. With Chinese protection, the illegal immigrantion problem can be quickly solved. And the immigration of well educated and knowledgeable Chinese businessmen and professionals from all ethnic Chinese regions such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, mainland China, etc. can develop Sabah economy quickly for the benefit of all Sabahans. Many Chinese who had left Sabah in disgust might also return if the place becomes more welcoming and empowering for Chinese.

James Massang
December 5, 2011 at 21:57

In addition to what I have said, I omitted to add that the so called “threat of terrorism” or possible “Mumbai style-bombing” is trumpeted -That is an old song-when Sabah nationalists who more than often are Christians seeking civil and political rights [Malaysia is not a signatory to the treaty] then the government will label them terrorists. If that is the definition Malaysian nationalists seeking independence for Malaysia would also fit into the category.

There is no need for the ISA or any such law. If it is needed for real threats then such “orders of detention” must come under the courts scrutiny [hopefully the Judiciary would actually dispense justice].the Malay regiment should be disbanded because they are a “BIGGER THREAT” as they have the Muslim faith as their ideology and unification.

December 5, 2011 at 02:05

UMNO’s Policy to Islamize Malaysia
There are very few people privy to the overall policy of the Malaysia government. Malaysia is not run by the Barisan Nasional-the country is run by the United Malay Nationalist Organization (UMNO) that gathers support from rent seeking patronage. The other two main coalition partners MIC (Indian) and MCA (Chinese) are basically passengers.
Malay, Muslim and Bumiputra are synonymous. In 11th May 1969 when the opposition won the elections, the ruling government (UMNO) triggered racial riots to wrest control of the country thereby discarding free and fair election results. In the following years the Razak government after forcing Tengku Abdul Rahman to retire and ‘illegally’ placed Malaysia under emergency laws thus, giving the Malay leaders and opportunity to consolidate their position. In the following years the election constituency was redrawn to give full advantage to the Malays while the Indian and Chinese areas were marginalized and made nugatory. In effect, in regions where the Malays resident they would have 5 Members of Parliament, where Indians and Chinese resided with a higher population would have one representative. In this fashion, the Malays had always more seats in Parliament. This was the game plan.
Having taken control of the procedure that will ensure Malay power, the concept of Bumiputra would reward other races if they converted to the Muslim faith-scholarships, housing, employment, loans among many other benefits. In this way many non- Malays converted to their detriment. Churches were refused building permits while Hindu temples were brought down. The laws drawn up were draconian and contrary to human rights norms, dissent was met with extreme punishment, laws like the official secrets act, sedition act, the internal security act and many other were enacted and kept in place as a threat to the man on the street. Even worse was the fact that Malays Supremacist groups were encouraged and a special Malay/Muslim Regiment similar to Hamas is empowered to attack non-Muslims when necessary.
As time goes the right to practice one’s religion is fast fading away and Malaysia’s policy of religious transformation is getting from bad to worse. UMNO supports the Southern Thailand rebellion, the MILF in Philippines and many Indonesian groups. I doubt very much that there will be a Mumbai like attack in Malaysia-the terror groups won’t bite the hand that feeds them!

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