Who killed Kim Jong-nam is not as interesting a question as the one of why he was killed here.

North Korea has a history of assassination when it comes to those who displease the regime in power. The Washington Post helpfully summarised the high points of North Korean “international diplomacy”, noting in this case – “Of course, the regime in Pyongyang hasn’t commented. But analysts say that the bizarre incident – which reads like something out of a spy novel – bears all the hallmarks of a North Korean hit.”

Anyone reading the Post’s list of assassinations (or attempts) will find parallels between the incident of the attempted assassination of defector Hwang Jang-yop, a secretary of the Worker’s Party, and the murder of the North Korean’s half-brother here in Malaysia –

“North Korean agents were said to have posed as defectors and then, once in the South, to have recruited three South Koreans in 2009 to manufacture drugs and assassinate Hwang, who had been highly critical of the regime in Pyongyang.

“They were said to have been paid about US$40,000 to kill Hwang, who was living under tight security because the South Korean government expected North Korea to try to kill him. But the plot never materialised as Hwang, then aged 87, died of natural causes in 2010.”

Which brings me to the question of why here? In many articles, I have made the case that our national security is compromised because of the tension between political operatives and their proxies in the security services and the assets on the ground who have a sincere desire to keep the country secure from threats, foreign and domestic.

The murder of Kim Jong-nam once again highlights the nexus between political power and criminal enterprise that threatens national security. I have written about this numerous times and the fact that a high-ranking veteran of Umno is complicit in the setting up of allegedly North Korean criminal and espionage structures in this country, and he is not investigated or charged with anything, is just another data point on how we are a state in failing.

Just to recap, when it comes to national security, criminal enterprise and radical Islamic terrorists, I wrote – “Add to this the complicated reality of security apparatus personnel navigating the petty fiefdoms and the allegiances of said fiefdoms to Umno warlords and potentates and the fact that Malaysia is a nexus for human trafficking, with the complicity – well-documented – of the security apparatus. This last part is extremely important because the unsanctioned flow of illicit human cargo is the conduit for Islamic extremists to leave and enter the country.”

So far, an unpublished UN report as reported by CNN claims that –

“1) – Through a network of front companies North Korea is ‘flouting sanctions through trade in prohibited goods, with evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication.

“2) – Hitherto unreported items such as encrypted military communications, man-portable air defence systems, air defence systems and satellite-guided missiles” in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

“3) – Diplomats, missions and trade representatives of (North Korea) systematically play key roles in prohibited sales, procurement, finance and logistics.

“4) – Around 45 boxes of military communications equipment sent from China to Eritrea were seized. All bore labels from ‘Glocom’, a shadowy company purportedly based in Malaysia which specialices in radios and other gear for “military and para-military organisations, the UN report said.”

Mustapha’s defence

Now let us look at the Umno’s veteran Mustapha Ya’akub’s defence of facilitating what amounts to a North Korean spy/criminal enterprise here in Malaysia. He claims –

1) He was unaware of the international sanctions against North Korea.

2) That it was strictly business after his interaction with North Korean embassy officials.

3) A business was set up with two “madams” and then later run by a man from North Korea and that IGS (International Global System, which is linked to Glocom) was closed down after he learnt there were sanctions in place.

4) He started another business with the same North Korean but it did not work out.

Are we to believe that the same Umno veteran who as reported in Utusan Online with regard to the Rohingya issue, said – “Tidak ada guna­nya Myanmar menjadi anggota kalau negara itu menjadi ‘biawak hidup’ yang mengganas kerana ia begitu mencemarkan nama baik dan kredibiliti Asean yang selama ini menjadi simbol keamanan dan contoh kepada dunia”, really did not know there were international sanctions against North Korea?

And that nobody from the state security apparatus or even Umno warned him not to meet North Korean embassy officials who had a reputation – as evidenced by the UN report – to engage in criminal activities, not to mention espionage activities?

Furthermore, who did he and his North Korean associate do business with? How many other countries that are on the sanctions list did this Malaysian politician and his North Korean associate do business with? Does the state security apparatus know?

What kind of due diligence was done with these people he did business with? If the state security apparatus was monitoring the North Korean embassy – which they should have been – surely a Malaysian politician from the ruling party doing business with officials from a state sanctioned by international bodies should have raised red flags.

The timeline from media reports suggest that the companies were only struck off after they were exposed in the UN report as reported by Reuters.

Three days ago, inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar said, “The police are constantly monitoring and taking pre-emptive measures to ensure that Malaysia is not used to carry out activities detrimental to national security”, so the question then becomes, why was an Umno operative getting into business with North Korean operatives and using Malaysia as a staging ground for their alleged criminal enterprise.

Are we to believe that neither the state security apparatus nor the ruling coalition knew of the existence of North Korean intelligence operatives in this country when a security analyst makes the claim that “North Korean intelligence agents have been more active in Malaysia than in any other country in South-East Asia”?

Either our state security services are incompetent or they did not care that North Korean intelligence services were using Malaysia as a safe haven for their espionage and criminal enterprise. Either the fact of a Malaysian politician closely aligned with the ruling party facilitating such an enterprise does not matter to our state security apparatus or they were in the dark about his business dealings, thus unaware of the scope of North Korean espionage activities here in Malaysia.

I suppose the real question is, is anyone really surprised that a North Korean tyrant’s half-brother would be assassinated here?

– M’kini