KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad confirmed today that he was present in Malaysia on the day of a deadly standoff between the police and followers of an Islamic sect on November 19, 1985 in Memali, Kedah, contrary to past news reports.
But he denied claims by former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr Musa Hitam that he had asked Dr Mahathir to postpone his visit to China scheduled the day after the incident.
In a statement last week, Musa said he had asked Dr Mahathir to put off his China trip and cited three reasons: the incident had taken place in the prime minister’s home state of Kedah; it had involved Malay Muslims; and the postponement would convey the perception that the head of the country’s government’s concern and priority for a domestic crisis.
The day before Dr Mahathir’s trip to China, the police raided the small village where PAS leader Ibrahim Mahmud — also known as Ibrahim Libya — was teaching, killing 14 civilians including Ibrahim.
“On Nov 20, 1985, I led a massive private sector delegation to China because I believed there were abundant trade opportunities with China which had then only opened up to external trade participation.
“I cannot recall Tun Musa (Hitam) coming up to me to ask me not to go to Beijing but he was, with many others, at the airport, to wish me well on my trip to China. Even at that time I cannot recall if he (Musa) had advised me against going abroad, said Dr Mahathir today in a posting on his blog.
Dr Mahathir said he was very confident in the ability of Musa in handling the situation and that he had appointed the latter as the acting prime minister.
“I returned home on Nov 28, 1985. When I was abroad, there were no incidents that could not be handled by the deputy prime minister who was then the acting prime minister.”
“The issue with regards to me not being in Malaysia when the incident occurred was not spread by me. I did not mention this at all in my book. What is publicly known is that Dato Musa Hitam was the Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister at that time.
“The Inspector General of Police discussed and reported to him as the Home Minister. The Home Minister is also involved in making the decision on actions that needed to be taken. It is surely unbecoming if when things were going well, only then one admits to the responsibility.”
Musa has drawn consternation from politicians on both sides of the aisle with his disclosure at a public forum on March 27 that Dr Mahathir was in the country on the day of the violent clash in Memali.
Opposition lawmakers have demanded a royal inquiry into the Memali incident that had stained and cast a stigma on Islamist party, PAS.