Who’s taking responsibility for Lahad Datu standoff?

Mat Zain Ibrahim | Feb 23, 2013

COMMENT Until today, there is not one honourable person who is prepared to take the responsibility for the lapse of security that resulted in the Lahad Datu standoff. Surely there must have been someone put in charge of the area, but has neglected his responsibilities.

If Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is serious about protecting the sovereignty, security and safety of our country and the citizens, he would have caught hold of one or two of the ground commanders and relieved them of their command.
Only then will the rakyat believe that the PM is not only in control but that he is on top of the situation and has his priorities right.

Since nothing of that sort is happening, we can only expect that, eventually, the blame will go to the lowest ranking soldiers, who will be accused of sleeping on the job and for failing to wake up their superiors. And also the constables who have failed to gather the intelligence before the intrusion for actions to be taken before the invaders landed.
This was the position taken by our Najib himself, when he was interviewed at length by reporters from on July 9, 2000, after the Sauk incident.

When Najib was asked about the lapse of security at the 304 Army Camp that resulted in the arms heist by the Al-Maunah gang, his answer was that all the standing orders were already in place but the fault was on a few low-ranking soldiers who did not follow the instructions to the letter.

When queried about the capabilities of the intelligence operators, Najib said the police should have gathered prior information about the Al-Maunah activities and if he had been told of the involvement of one army major in the group earlier, for instance, he would have taken some actions against the said major.

As the defence minister then, it was improper for Najib to stoop so low as to pick on the level of soldiers guarding the armoury to shift the blame to. He should have reprimanded severely the division commander, or at the very least the brigade commander, for failing to ensure that units under their command carried out their tasks jobs properly.

In other words, Najib is telling the rakyat that he can take action against soldiers or police of the lowest rank only, but would not dare touch the generals or police chiefs.

‘Dealing with armed enemies’
The citizens must surely remember how the people in the Klang Valley were terrified and lived in horror for almost two months, between May and June 1993, when the notorious Kalimuthu aka Bentong Kali went on a rampage, and with just one automatic pistol, a 9mm Sig Sauer.

More than 200 police personnel (me included) were deployed to track him down and only managed to get Bentong Kali on June 29, 1993. And even then, only after he had already killed 16 people.

If a person can inflict that many casualties using just one handgun, then we would rather not imagine the damage the Sulu militants in Lahad Datu can cause to our citizens with the firepower they brought along with them, as reported.
Najib himself admitted in that interview of July 2000 that he was nervousand could not sleep well when told about the arms heist at the 304 Army Camp.

If he, as a defence minister then, could have such fearful feelings, then he cannot expect the citizens, especially those in Lahad Datu and the rest of the country, to be unafraid of their safety after knowing about the armed intrusion by a group of foreigners who are known to be seasoned fighters.

It is the duty of the government of the day to provide the citizens with regular updates on these situations, similar to what was done during the operations against Bentong Kali and the Al-Maunah group, to name a few.

It would be wrong and irresponsible for the government to downplay the Lahad Datu intrusion or hide the truth from her own citizens, who might be caught off guard should any of the intruders slip through the cordon.

Our sovereignty, our pride, our security and safety are being threatened and put under siege by hundreds of armed invaders and the prime minister is saying that the rakyat do not have the right to know?

It is a sad and embarrassing situation that Malaysians are forced to depend on news and statements from President Benigno Aquino and the Malacanang spokesperson to get a better understanding of the actual state of security of our own country, instead of hearing it from our very own prime minister or home minister.

Is the PM being fair to the people in this regard? He should reassess his position.

Why no military involvement?

Malaysians are wondering, and many are asking, why the military appears to be sidelined instead of being mobilised to help solve the standoff, since the intrusion has become a national security issue and of public interest.
My gut feeling tells me that Najib is worried that if the military is involved in this operation, it will develop into another “standoff” within the Lahad Datu standoff.

This time, it will be between the police commanders and the army field commanders, who will be arguing over who is to be in-charge of the whole operation, who is to get the most media and TV coverage, who is to be cited as the hero at the end of the day and who is to be awarded another medal and title. This will be a more long drawn-out and complicated issue to settle than the actual standoff itself.

Seriously I am not trying to pull a fast one here. Neither is it my intention to belittle both the current police and military commanders or to embarrass anyone, dead or alive. I am still part of the big family, and so are my brother and in-laws, albeit all in retirement.

This “standoff within a stand-off” did happen in real life, during the Bukit Jenalik, Sauk, incident.
The question of who is the “real hero” in the surrender of those Al-Maunah arms raiders between, Lt-Gen Zaini Mohd Said and ASP Abdul Razak MohdYusof , has not been resolved fully until today, after almost 13 years.
As far as Najib is concerned, it’s Zaini, who “single-handedly” brought the Al-Maunah arms heist and hostage standoff to a finish. Only God knows how he came to this conclusion.

But as far as the former IGP Norian Mai and the police are concerned, the real hero is ASP Abdul Razak, who at the time of incident was a chief inspector based in with the General Operations Force in Ulu Kinta.

According to the former IGP, it was Abdul Razak who, by continuously arguing “religion” with the Al-Maunah gang, managed to convince the group to lay down their arms. Even when Zaini, wgho was then army field commander, and GOF Commander SAC II Abdul Hadi Mahmud went in with the security forces, Abdul Razak was already there and trying to calm both parties to ensure that no confrontation took place.

I would suggest that in order to avoid complicating the already complicated Lahad Datu standoff, it is better to let IGP Ismail Omar finish his business and show us that he really knows what he is doing and keeping the citizens updated.
Where’s the rule of law?

Without a doubt, what the Sulu armed intruders have done is waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sabah, irrespective of whichever angle one looks at it.

No one from the intruders should be allowed to get away scot free, under any circumstance. They must face the full weight of our laws as a deterrent to prevent others from following their footsteps.

We should not be afraid and should ignore any threats of retaliation from any quarter.
After all, our people are already conditioned to threats of another “May 13″ chaos taking place and still they can go about their business as usual.
Our people have already accepted the fact that the chaos did take place and the threat of history repeating itself will always be there, that the threat will remain as a threat forever. They will cross the bridge when the time comes, if at all. The real losers are the hatemongers.

What is before Najib now is an “Al-Maunah like standoff”. I must say that Najib was quite hands-on during the Sauk incident. Now, the citizens who have always been under threats, some of which were incited on his own behalf, would be watching very closely how Najib handles the Lahad Datu standoff instead.

The rakyat can judge whether Najib’s actions will be more or less, or less is more, as compared with the Al-Maunah standoff. If he does more, there will definitely be a backlash from certain quarters. If he does less, he will get more whacking from the rakyat. So, he had better find something in between… a “just nice” solution.
Good luck to the prime minister and we should wish him well.

– Malaysiakini


·         MAT ZAIN IBRAHIM is former chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, Kuala Lumpur Police Contingent.