Thursday, 07 March 2013 16:41
DEAD MEN DON'T TALK? Zahid's 'destroy' comment, Misuari's allegation, Najib's 'promise'
An overly aggressive response from Malaysia's defense Minister Zahid Hamidi to a call from both the Sulu Sultan and UN chief Ban Ki-moon for a ceasefire has sparked even hotter negative speculation against the government of embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak.
In a Twitter posting, Zahid had vowed that for the welfare of Sabah and all Malaysians, every single Filipino militant in the Sulu army should be “destroyed”.
“Call for unilateral ceasefire not accepted by Malaysia except if militants surrender without condition,” posted Zahid.
“Do not believe the offer for ceasefire by Jamalul Kiram. For the good of Sabah citizens and all Malaysians, destroy all militants first,” he said in another posting.
Dead men don't talk?
But not only did Zahid's comments raise the mercury in the already boiling-hot debacle for his Umno ruling party, it spurred further concern that the Najib administration was trying to cover up an allegation raised by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding Chairman Nur Misuari.
Misuari was reported as telling the Manila Bulletin that he had heard Agbimuddin Kiram, the leader of the gunmen who had invaded Malaysia's Lahad Datu, had "crossed the sea to the island because they were allegedly promised to be settled in Sabah by Prime Minister Dato Seri Haji Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Addul Razak".
“This should be handled by cooler heads,” said Misuari, adding it would also be good to await the coming election in April in Malaysia to see who will be the new prime minister.
Death toll still climbing
Lahad Datu is the coastal village in East Malaysian Sabah state where a group of some 200 men claiming to be members of the Royal Army of the Sulu Sultanate had landed some three weeks ago.
Najib's lax response and slow reaction to the intrusion had already sparked speculation that he was trying to make use of the incident to stir up patriotic sentiments to benefit his coalition ahead of a general election widely expected to be called within weeks.
Nonetheless, due to public pressure, Najib was forced to resort to physical means to evict in the intruders, who had refused to leave after a February 22 deadline expired.
On March 1, Malaysian police tried to raid the village where the gunmen were hiding. The offensive resulted in 14 deaths, 2 of which were Malaysian policemen. It also sparked a revenge killing and on the following day, another violent skirmish broke out in Semporna, leaving another 12 dead. This time, six of those killed were Malaysian policemen.
As national anger and fears of prolonged hostilities rose, Najib gave the go-ahead to a joint military and police offensive on Tuesday, March 5. No firepower was spared, with F18 and Hawk fighter jets deployed to bomb the area. The death toll is still climbing as the Malaysian authorities continue their search for bodies.
A need for greater honesty and transparency
Caught in the crossfire of conspiracy theories, Opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim has called for calm and demanded transparency from the Najib administration.
"A lot of questions remain... was there some negotiations prior to that ... this is a problem that arises because you try to censor the media," Anwar told a press conference on Wednesday.
"There is a huge disconnect on what is reported here and what is reported in the Philippines. What Umno wants to do is to portray the Opposition leaders as having complicity in the aggression.
"But the point is, it's pathetic to have a national problem, a national security problem and you have the Umno leaders, Umno media trying to deflect (attention from) their own incompetence, their slow reaction, the failure of the prime minister and the minister of defense to even come out with a simple statement," he added, urging for a parliamentary roundtable on the intrusion.
Anwar also gave his take on the situation to the Philippine Inquirer in a 4-part radio interview (scroll below and click to listen).
The 64-year-old Anwar, widely touted to become the country's next prime minister, had been accused by Najib's Umno party of having 'masterminded' the intrusion. He responded by slapping two RM100 million lawsuits against the Umno media for the allegations.
The Sulu Sultanate has denied any links with the Malaysian Opposition.
RADIO INTERVIEW: CLICK INTO THE LINKS TO LISTEN