Ex-minister defends Dr M in Memali uproar


(MM) – Nearly 30 years after the controversial Memali clash, Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin has once again rallied to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s side as detractors attempt to pin the deaths of policemen and Islamists on the then-prime minister.

In a blog post, the former information minister claimed that he was by Dr Mahathir’s side as the latter was to depart for China just after the November 1985 bloody clash between police forces and followers of an Islamic sect in Memali, Kedah.

Zainuddin also claimed that a former Cabinet colleague, Tun Musa Hitam, who was also acting prime minister at that time, was trying to wash his hands off the responsibility by claiming otherwise.

“If my memory serves me right, Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir received the news of the bloody Memali incident at November 1985 while he was departing to a formal visit to the People’s Republic of China,” Zainuddin wrote in Malay on his blog.

“At that time, I was with other reporters and others in the group accompanying him in Subang airport, waiting for departure.”

Zainuddin was group chief editor for Malay daily Utusan Malaysia between 1983 and 1992, before being elected Information Minister between 2006 and 2008.

This comes as DAP’s Lim Kit Siang urged for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) today against the 29-year-old incident while Musa and Dr Mahathir are still alive and able to testify.

“With the revelation of the 29-year secret that Mahathir was in Malaysia during the Memali Incident, an independent commission of inquiry into all aspects of the tragedy which caused the loss of 18 lives including four policemen has become most imperative,” Lim said in a statement here.

Musa revealed in a political discussion in Kota Baru on Thursday that Dr Mahathir was in Kuala Lumpur when the incident occurred, despite media reports.

Dr Mahathir had since deflected the claim, saying he has no memory of it and would need to check Musa’s claim first.

According to reports, Musa had ordered a team of around 200 policemen to lay siege on the remote village near Baling, Kedah, which was occupied by around 400 of the sect’s members, led by Muslim preacher Ibrahim Mahmud, also known as Ibrahim Libya.

The siege was originally to detain Ibrahim under the Internal Security Act, but lead to the deaths of Ibrahim, 13 other villagers, and four policemen after the sect’s members clashed with the police.

Islamist party PAS, of which Ibrahim was a member, has since declared the deceased as martyrs.