Malaysians cannot but wonder what the authorities are trying to hide and keep away from public knowledge in connection with the Al-Ma置nah arms heists and killings that the Inspector-General of Police, the Attorney-General, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister are prepared to compromise their public image and credibility by going back on their repeated public assurances that there would be a fair and open trial of the Al-Ma置nah deviationists.
Although the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai yesterday denied having said on Sunday that the 27 would be charged today, Norian cannot deny that in the special television interview on 22nd July, he said that the 27 members of the Al-Ma置nah group detained by the police over the Sauk incident would be charged in court the following week under the Penal Code, Firearms Act and Kidnapping Act.
This is what Norian said on television: "God willing, we will begin charging them next week. We will discuss the charges with the public prosecutor and will charge them".
This was followed by a highly-publicised visit by the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah and his top prosecution team three days later to the sites of the Al-Ma置nah arms heists and atrocities, namely the two Grik army camps and the Bukit Jenalik hideout of the Al-Ma置nah gang, as well as the Sekolah Kebangsaan Jenalik, which was turned into an operation centre for the security forces during the standoff.
Mohtar publicly confirmed that the police had almost completed their investigations into the Al-Ma置nah arms heists and atrocities and that "those involved would be charged soon".
On 18th July 2000, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi defended the delay in bringing the 27 Al-Ma置nah members to court although he said he had requested the police to expedite their investigations, claiming that if investigations were not done properly, there was a possibility that it could affect the case when in court.
The same reasoning and assurance was given by the Prime Minister, Datuk
Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in his special one-hour television interview
on 20th July and this is what he said, according to the transcript of the
"That痴 why, before going to court the police and the Public Prosecutor must get all the evidence to ensure there is basis for the case and it is acepted by the court."
Yesterday, the Attorney-General said that he was satisfied that the police had done a thorough investigation into the Al-Ma置nah arms heists and atrocities and that he, as Public Prosecutor, together with his senior officers, were satisfied after a detailed study of the police investigation papers that there was sufficient evidence to warrant the prosecution of those responsible under the relevant laws.
Mohtar said that he had been informed by the police of their intended action to detain the Al-Ma置nah criminals under the Internal Security Act, and therefore, "in the interest of the national security, I have decided to defer the prosecution of these criminals for the time being".
The reason of "the interest of national security" given by the Attorney-General as to why he is not prosecuting the 27 Al-Ma置nah members for the arms heists and killings is completely unacceptable, and if a national referendum is held, the majority of Malaysians would surely agree that it is the decision not to proceed with the prosecution of the 27 Al-Ma置nah members which is undermining "the interest of national security".
National interest and national unity in fact demand a swift public trial of the Al-Ma置nah arms heists and atrocities so that the true picture of the entire incident could surface, as it is now mired in a miasma of inconsistencies and contradictions in government versions, conflicting claims and even ludicrous accounts.
Furthermore, the failure to prosecute the 27 Al-Ma置nah members is a violation of the solemn pledge given by the Prime Minister to the families of the two victims of the Al-Ma置nah atrocities, police detective Cpl. R. Sagadevan and army commando Mathew ak Medan that their deaths and sufferings would not be in vain and that the full wrath of the law would be applied to punish the murderers.
Among the first to protest against the failure of the police and the Attorney-General to prosecute the 27 Al-Ma置nah members should be the families of Mathew and Sagedevan.
There are far-reaching consequences in the failure of the government to keep its repeated undertaking to prosecute the 27 Al-Ma置nah members so that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the Al-Ma置nah arms heists and killings would be out.
The government must be prepared for the worst crisis of public credibility for its decision to use the Internal Security Act instead of speedy public trial of the 27 Al-Ma置nah arms heists and killings, which would be even more serious than the "black eye" of former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when the authorities were doing its utmost to "cover-up" the brutal and inhuman assault committed against the blind-folded and hand-cuffed Anwar by the then Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor when in the very inner sanctum of police high command in Bukit Aman.
For a start, the first consequence of the refusal of the police and the Attorney-General to prosecute the 27 Al-Ma置nah members is to render suspect all government versions and accounts and Ministerial speeches and statements about the Al-Ma置nah arms heists and killings in the past month.
The Cabinet tomorrow should rescind the decision of the police to detain the 27 Al-Ma置nah members under the Internal Security Act so that the Attorney-General can proceed forthwith to charge them under the various criminal laws of the country to avoid any suspicion whatsoever that the Barisan Nasional government is engaged in a massive "cover-up" operation on the Al-Ma置nah arms heists and killings.
If the Cabinet is unable to intervene, then it should ask for the resignation of Norian Mai as Inspector-General of Police and Mohtar Abdullah as Attorney-General to spare the government and the country the most serious bout of crisis of public credibility in the nation痴 43-year history.