‘Contradicting Signals’ on Malaysia’s IS Threat: Lawmakers

S. Adie Zul

2015-10-23
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151023-MY-khalid-1000 Malaysian Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar addresses a news conference in Wang Kelian, near Malaysia’s border with Thailand, May 25, 2015.
AFP

Malaysia's government has sent mixed messages on the national security threat posed by the Islamic State (IS), some parliamentarians say, despite a recent meeting admonishing them to take it seriously.

“The government did not give us a clear explanation on the issue of IS threat,” Chua Tiang Chang, an MP with the opposition People’s Justice Party (PKR), told BenarNews, referring to a meeting called by Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar on Oct 15. to brief lawmakers about IS.

“During the briefing, they told us that the threat is very serious as IS militants were planning to attack houses of worship, the prime minister's residence, and that so many of our people are being lured to join jihad movement,” he said.

“They said IS militants are everywhere and they mixed all the [militant] groups together. However, police did not even try to make things clearer to us about who the terrorist s actually are,” Chua added.

The following Monday, Chua said, Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi gave a different message during a parliamentary session.

The home minister “told the House that we are very safe, and Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world [where] the threat of IS is minimal,” Chua said.

“So, how can you expect people to reconcile [the facts] when you are giving contradicting signals from one person to another and to different people? So we are quite confused here,” he said.

‘A government drama’

At the Oct. 15 meeting at the Royal Malaysia Police academy in Kuala Lumpur, Khalid tried to convince lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition blocs that the government wasn’t exaggerating its warnings about the level of the domestic threat posed by IS.

“Actually there are many people among us, including the elected representatives, who don’t believe in the ISIS threat,” The Malaysian Insider quoted Khalid as telling reporters after the briefing, referring to IS by another acronym.

“[They think] the ISIS threat is part of a government drama and a farce. That’s why we have called them so that we can give an explanation,” he added.

For months, government officials have warned that IS, via social media, threatens the country by aggressively recruiting young Malaysians for duty in Syria or Iraq, and that jihadists returning from combat tours abroad could plot terrorist attacks back home.

For his part, Zahid told parliament that the Malaysian police had arrested 132 people suspected of “associating with elements of terrorism including IS militants,” Bernama reported.

“The country’s security levels are at optimum levels and the threat of terrorism from inside and outside the country is under control,” Astro Awani quoted Zahid as telling parliamentarians on Monday.

The next day, a Malaysian soldier was sentenced to seven months in jail for having a phone with an IS image. On Thursday, an Indonesian oil worker was charged in Kuala Lumpur for possessing publications related to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

On Friday, a 55-year-old Malaysian woman was sentenced to 60 months in jail for uploading to Facebook posts and photographs about her son, a jihadist killed in Syria, Bernama reported.

Put politics aside: UMNO MP

Mahfuz Omar, an MP with the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), said he did not deny the existence of an IS threat and urged authorities to give it priority.

“However, what we are concerned with is the contradicting statements by IGP Khalid Abu Bakar and the home minister,” Mahfuz told BenarNews.

“Last week, the police were adamant that the threat of militant group is for real and serious, not a ploy. But when the home minister responded to my supplementary question at the Dewan Rakyat, he said the situation is under control and Malaysia is one of the safest countries,” the PAS lawmaker added.

“Such inconsistent statements send contradicting signals, and we are not sure which one is the most accurate.”

Zahidi Zainul Abidin, an MP with the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the party that heads the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, defended the government’s messaging on the issue.

“Politicizing the matter will not bring any good,” Zaihidi told BenarNews. “All quarters should understand that the issue of the IS threat is beyond politics but it is saddening that some of the opposition parties are not keen to help the government in anything.”

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