AN inquiry into Memali incident will reveal the role PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang played in the stand-off between the authorities and civilians, which cost lives on both sides, including that of policemen and a militant leader, 30 years ago, a former inspector-general of police said.
Amid renewed political interest in the 1985 siege on religious extremists in a remote village in Kedah, Abdul Rahim Noor is questioning the government’s proposal for a royal commission of inquiry (RCI), and PAS’ support of it.
“If an RCI were to be held, we won’t be able to avoid the fact that the ‘Amanat Hadi’ had played a role in causing the Memali incident,” Rahim told The Malaysian Insight.
“Amanat Hadi” refers to the PAS president’s speech on April 7, 1981, in which he declared Umno and Barisan Nasional an infidel government who ruled like colonialists.
Many consider the speech of the young Hadi, then the PAS Terengganu commissioner, as a defining moment in Malaysian politics, when the Muslim community was effectively split along PAS and Umno lines.
The two parties have long fought over the Malay-Muslim vote.
Rahim, who was Selangor police chief when the siege occurred on November 19, 1985, said Hadi’s speech had served to inspire PAS members nationwide, including religious teacher and PAS member Ibrahim Mahmud, also known as Ibrahim Libya, who formed a militant sect that wanted to go beyond political struggle.
Rahim said ‘Amanat Hadi’ had two important elements: the accusation that Muslims who failed to adopt Islam as a complete way of life, including in politics were kaffir, or infidels; and the declaration that opposition to Umno and BN was “jihad” and those who died in the struggle were “martyrs”.
“Hadi’s message was actively taken up and preached by PAS Youth, and it was this message that inspired Ibrahim Libya.
“He was a strident PAS follower and was very loyal to Hadi’s message,” said Rahim, who is also formerly the Bukit Aman Special Branch chief.
Table the White Paper
Rahim was responding to The Malaysian Insight’s request for comment on the Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s statement that the government was ready to hold a RCI into the Memali incident.
The proposal was quickly welcomed by PAS, which said it would form a special committee and a legal aid team to look into the welfare of the Memali victims.
The Memali incident is a thorny subject for PAS and Hadi had recently blamedthe violence that broke out at the Nothing To Hide 2.0 forum on August 13 on Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s failure to give a satisfactory answer to a question about the siege in the Q&A session.
Dr Mahathir, who was prime minister when the incident occurred, is now leading the opposition Pakatan Harapan, while Hadi, to all appearances, is trying to steer PAS towards closer cooperation with Umno in the coming general election.
Rahim said there was no need for an RCI into Memali as there was already a White Paper on the incident.
“What the government should do is to table that in Parliament and allow debate over it.”
He said the White Paper had been disputed by some eye witnesses, who did not consider it an accurate account of the siege, which left 14 people, including Ibrahim and four police officers, dead.
Until a few years ago, the families of those killed were still demanding justice for the victims of the incident.
The White Paper, prepared by the Home Ministry in 1986, said that the police acted in accordance with the law.
“Ibrahim Mahmood, a PAS leader, had broken the law and was encouraging violence by using religion. He had influenced them to the point where they had lost their rationality and attacked the police in accordance with their belief that they would die as martyrs.
“The Memali incident was the result of a group of people using religion for their own political gain. This group had called the government ‘infidels’ and made Muslims hate one another.
“Based on this allegation, they instigated Muslims to rise up and fight the government, including using violence,” said the White Paper report, which was presented to Dewan Rakyat.
Rahim said Special Branch had wanted to arrest Ibrahim and his followers under the now-repealed Internal Security Act (ISA) because there was evidence that the group intended acts that would do harm to the public . The siege of Memali village was staged for the group leader’s capture.
He stressed that Ibrahim did not plan to commit acts of violence because PAS had ordered them, but because he had taken ‘”Amanat Hadi” to heart.
“That is why I do not understand why Hadi would want to resurrect the Memali tragedy, because it will emerge that he had played a role in it,” Rahim said.