From Malaysiakini : Tomorrow is the 28th anniversary of one of the worst massacres in
modern Malaysian history, when government forces opened fire on harmless
farmers in a small village in Kedah.
the early hours of Nov 19, 1985, several Police Field Force units
surrounded Memali, before launching an attack on a small group of
villagers holed up in one house. By noon, 14 men had been murdered in
cold blood. Four police personnel also died under friendly fire.
object was to detain one man, the charismatic and influential ustaz
(religious leader) - also a successful radio and TV commentator -
popularly known as Ibrahim Libya (right).
were cut down in a hail of bullets from M16 assault rifles. Young and
middle- aged men had been shot in the head or back. One of them,
Wan Piah Yunus, received multiple bullet wounds, but miraculously
survived, only to be detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) once
his treatment at the Sungei Petani hospital ended.
wonders. Why did the police, having blocked all roads into the area and
surrounded the house, did not simply sit it out and wait?
“Tiga hari saja
(three days only),” said one eyewitness who was 11 at the time. He
explained that 100 core defenders could easily have been starved out,
because they only had food and water for three days.
passage of 28 years, the shock of the massacre and the bloodbath has
not worn off. Questions remain unanswered. Many facts surrounding the
events do not add up. Many official statements lack conviction. Was
there evidence of foul play?
On the evening of Nov 18, 1985,
around 3,000 police personnel were mobilised, ostensibly to prepare for
an attack on a communist camp near Baling. Why were they allegedly told
Muslim police personnel voiced unease about attacking while early
morning prayers were under way. At dawn, with the cover of darkness
gone, volleys of tear gas were lobbed into the perimeter of the house.
armoured car forced the gates open. When the villagers refused to
surrender, the order to open fire was issued and the house sprayed with
bullets. Why the use of excessive force?
The detailed mopping-up
and forensic evidence, if it has been made public, would have been
interesting. As this was not a wartime incident, how many bullets were
discharged to ensure success? Official reports contradict
eyewitness accounts with villagers claiming there were between
3,000-4,000 police persoonel, but the authorities set the number at 200.
Still no answers
not many people are aware of the massacre. Malaysians rarely question
their leaders and many believe the misleading accounts printed in the
newspapers in 1985.
Today, the spectre of Memali is used as a
campaign strategy before a general election, to frighten the masses and
warn them of the dangers of deviant Muslim sects. Like the magician who
pulls the rabbit out of his hat, Umno Baru’s rabbits are the Memali
incident, the communists and the Chinese.
The Memali massacre
has never been fully explained and confusion reigns to this day. The
prime minister at the time was Dr Mahathir Mohamad. With our present
knowledge of Mahathir’s methods, does anyone really have faith in the
official White Paper? How ironical that the White Paper is simply
fingers pointed to Musa Hitam, the acting home minister, for pulling
the metaphorical trigger. At the time, it was reported that Mahathir was
in China on an official visit; but was he?
According to various
reports, the official visit to China started on Nov 20. Beijing is just
six hours away. Normally, when Mahathir leaves on an official visit,
his departure is a state occasion. Most of the cabinet will parade to
bid him farewell and the event will be well publicised.
occasion Mahathir slithered out of the country without a single mention
in the newspapers. Was he really out of the country on Nov 19? Did Musa
give the order to kill on sight or was he shielding his boss?
was it critical to apprehend Ibrahim Libya? He did not have a criminal
record, and neither did his followers. Anecdotal evidence points to the
Umno Baling branch being envious of PAS, and Ibrahim’s influence on the
Malays in the area. Umno Baling plied pressure on the Umno leadership to
curb Ibrahim’s influence.
The authorities decided to detain
Ibrahim under the ISA in September, but his followers commanded a strong
defence of their leader. Ibrahim
agreed to cooperate, but only if he were given a fair hearing and not
subjected to detention without trial under the ISA.
continued resistance to the ISA sealed his own fate. Memali does seem
like a political conspiracy, to silence a political rival, and many
facts suggest this theory.
Members of the Al-Arqam sect had been
rehabilitated. If Ibrahim and his followers were accused of being
deviants, why did the authorities fail to rehabilitate them? Why did the
National Fatwa council not issue a fatwa against Ibrahim?
Ibrahim was supposed to be shielding communist subversives. Where were they hiding?
Ibrahim was reported to have amassed an arsenal of dangerous weapons. That alleged stockpile remains hidden, to this day.
was accused of building a fortress, the base for his revolutionary
movement which he would use to topple the federal government. No
fortress has been found.
remaining survivors and several villagers were incarcerated under the
ISA. Why were they released, without charge four months before the 1986
The widows received a derisory amount of
compensation. Why would a payout have been made, unless the victims had
been wrongfully attacked?
If Ibrahim was a penderhaka
(traitor), why did the Kedah sultan (currently the Agong) visit his
grave at Kampung Parit Panjang to pay respects? The act of praying and
pouring air mawar on a grave is a highly significant act, in the eyes of the rakyat.
It is alleged that the sultan did not do the same for the four police personnel who died in the incident.
Umno Baru government would like to hide the Memali massacre, but is
failing in its effort. The only act of terrorism that has been committed
was the one perpetrated by the Umno government.
Memali is a
most graphic illustration of Umno Baru’s true political agenda. It also
serves as a warning to all political parties, that all forms of
nationalist and religious extremism are harmful. Blind political
allegiance is just as wrong as blind religious fidelity.
and transparency are vital in any democracy and the more Umno Baru wants
to hide Memali, the more we will view them with suspicion. Umno Baru
fears the rakyat, because of what they might uncover when searching for
slaughter and betrayal of the people of Memali, is a story that Umno
Baru wants to forget. A royal commission of inquiry may provide some
answers and useful lessons for the future, but it won’t bring back the
We need to know who ordered the massacre and the events
that led to the bloodbath. Then, the perpetrators should be sent for
The massacre was shocking but worse is that, despite the
brutality and carnage, it is alleged that no senior cabinet member,
neither Mahathir nor Musa, paid a visit to Memali to offer their
condolences, their respects or to apologise for what transpired.
it was claimed that Anwar Ibrahim was the only one to visit Memali, but
that he had to wait until he left Umno Baru before he did so.
Baru wants to assert control over the villagers and to exploit them for
political expediency. Ibrahim Libya died a martyr. He was also the
victim of a political assassination. So, who pulled the trigger on
Memali? MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the
admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak
Liberation Organisation (PLO).