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HR: The Framing of the Al Maunah
By Harun Rashid

9/1/2002 10:28 pm Wed

Jan 9, 2002

The Framing of the Al Maunah

by Harun Rashid

The prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir, insists the Al Maunah robbery actually happened, that the events surrounding it were not staged by the government. He says the facts were reported accurately by the IGP and defense minister, who acted as the on-site media spokesmen for his government. The fabulous tale, as dictated to the press by the IGP, Norian Mai and the defense minister, Najib, has a fatal flaw. Their stories differ, and as all fabrications must, are inconsistent with other observable and more logical facts. The story they tell also does not find accord with testimony given during the trial.

The government has failed in its extensive effort to pack public perception with a puerile presentation. The simple problem is that the facts as given cannot withstand even superficial examination. The questioning mind is taunted and teased, testing whether the PM is totally tilted in his reasoning, or perhaps his political sense deceives him into supposing the public cannot detect a fib if it's boldly told.

The trial but confirms the public conclusion it was a propaganda stunt first to last, practised on paper but performed without rehearsal, by a governing party desperate to prove previous implications that PAS, its primary party in political opposition, has members who are 'deviationist' and therefore extremist in their views.

Four men died in the incident, while 25 others have had their lives destroyed. Many are no longer mentally stable. Three are sentenced to hang at the hands of the public, and the majority are never to be released from prison for the balance of their lives.

The pm, in his latest display of faulty logic, says that the hanging of the defendants will prove that the charges brought against them were true. In other times defendants were required to prove innocence by attempting to carry hot steel for nine paces. Others were made to walk over red-hot plowshares, or thrown bodily in sealed sacks to a roiling river (those who floated were found at fault, fished out and fried at the stake). We must suppose that the pm of Malaysia will release the condemned men if they should somehow survive the gallows.

When the public first questioned the lack of logic of the larcenous event, the government promptly promised a White Paper. Following a long tradition, it has not been prepared. But now the pm repeats the promise. It adds little to an evenings entertainment. Such promises are deemed tantamount to an admission that the subject of the paper is a government sponsored event. The pm's renewed promise of a white paper is seen as but a contemptuous cork, produced to stopper the bottle of discontent.

If the government made delivery of all the white papers previously promised, a proud new building would be required to house them. Fortunately there are two reasons the necessity fails. First is the fortuitous fact there are no white papers to file, and second, there is already a plethora of hollow buildings in the capital of Kuala Lumpur. The migrations of ministries south to the minarets of Putrajaya avails an ample acreage of affordable accomodation. Perhaps the still yawning yardage of the second Twin Tower could be utilised for the purpose.

A White paper was promised to give details of the Medan incident. Another was promised to report the findings of the fire at the University Malaya. There are lots of others. But none are forthcoming. There appears to be a shortage of White Paper writers in Malaysia, the dearth leaving an embarrassing excess of White Paper promisers. The public pays a pitiful penny for these promises. They are patently insincere, and the pm and his ministers make themselves ridiculous by routine repetition.

Much remains unwritten of the Al Maunah and their treatment at the hands of the government. The brash and buxom blossom beats any bouquet by Baudelaire. But the fragrance falls foul from its first float. Following after the finale of folly, like the flapping of faulty fitting footwear, a roadshow rounded the country with a presentation for civil servants. The avowed purpose was to restore the government's creased credibility. Admission was free, attendance was voluntary. It was a flop. Attendance was light. The lack of a house meant it would not play in the city.

Two teams coordinated to convince a sceptical public an event had indeed occured as alleged. The personae were of two components, one sporting official Islamic papers, the other pulled from lower priorities in the police department. The army was curiously left out. It was a low grossing first night. The prepared presentation provided more puzzlement than proof.

The Islamic representatives took trouble to outline in depth the 29 ways in which a deviation from acceptable Islamic practice may occur. Then, to the amazement of all, they announced they were unable to decide whether the Al Maunah members were deviationist or not.

The audience was scornful. What was the purpose of inviting the employees of the government, taking them away from their desks for half a day, only to be told nothing? A short and simple statement, posted by the time clock, would be enough to satisfy such a silly business.

Then the peoples' policemen gave an unconvincing oral description of the Al Maunah and their rendition of events. They were met with total suspicion and disbelief. They invited questions. The questions all indicated those in the audience were not convinced, and the answers given back to them provided no relief for their grief.

The policemen stood still as stone statues while an amateurish video tape was shown. It was primarily a collage of various scenes purported to be training activities of the Al Maunah. Included in the video was a macabre scene depicting two bodies being taken from a hole. The bodies had been placed in the hole one atop the other. The hole was seen to be sufficiently deep to allow this.

One body was said to be that of Special Branch Sgt. Sagadevan. The other was said to be the body of the young Ranger Matthew, alias Medan. The grave and corpse of the slain Al Maunah member was not shown in the video, and was not mentioned. One is left to assume the Al Maunah also buried him, and that his burial and retreival occurred in a similar manner, though perhaps at another time and date.

Bukit Jenalik is a developed agricultural area with no tropical undergrowth for concealment. A school is a few hundred yards away in clear view. What the rubber tappers, vegetable farmers and school children thought of the affair is not recorded on the tape.

The video audience presumed it was the product of a cameraman present when the bodies were first exhumed from the hole on Bukit Jenalik. This cameraman was not identified, nor was the date given. The bodies taken to the hospital morgue were stiff with rigor mortis, and the pathologist reported that death had occurred in both cases about four days prior. The bodies taken to the morgue were four days old. The trial testimony by the eyewitness was that the killings occurred one or two days prior. How does one explain this? These details are perhaps inadvertantly ommitted, to be supplied in the forthcoming white paper the pm has promised.

During the trial, a policeman testified that in the dark of the night of the day of the surrender he was sent by his superior to the top of Bukit Jenalik. It was after 10PM when he said he happened to find the grave of the two men by torchlight. Was he sent specifically to locate the grave? He said he also discovered an M16 rifle and other equipment near the grave.

The video of the two men being removed from the hole was taken in daylight. Yet the trial testimony states the discovery of the grave was at 10PM. Are we expected to believe the bodies were left in the grave overnight, to await the arrival of the cameraman? This interesting question escaped the attention of the members of the court during the trial. In fact, the police video was not placed in evidence, although a number of experienced defense lawyers were present. How is this lapse to be viewed?

The policeman who said he discovered the grave in the dark has remarkably keen night vision. The area of the Bukit Jenalik site is small, and one is immediately struck by the fact a regiment of army soldiers combed the entire vicinity throughout the afternoon specifically searching for any physical evidence. They found neither a grave nor the rifle. Yet the policeman found it in the dark, along with a rifle and other equipment. For anyone who has visited the confined site, the story told by the witnesses is totally beyond belief.

The slain Al Maunah member was said to have been killed during the four day standoff. Yet no details of his burial or exhumation have been given. There is a total lack of information, as though he was forgotten. There is no mention of his corpse or its burial. There is likewise no pathologist's report as to the condition of the corpse when exhumed. Is this death not an important aspect of the affair? He is said to have been killed by gunfire from soldiers surrounding the area. Is not a slain man entitled to respectful treatment and a decent burial, regardless of the circumstances? Who is to answer for this? What information has the slain man's family been given? Does his position as intelligence and security officer of the Al Maunah have any bearing on his death?

The dramatic events preceding the final surrender, as recounted by an army general who modestly accepted hero status, relate how one of the defendants was hit by a rifle bullet fired by Mohd Amin when the general courageously and alertly deflected it away from himself. The identity of the defendant who was so injured was not given, nor were the details of his treatment. Local hospitals did not receive such a patient. Who can answer this?

Another Special Branch officer was present as a hostage. He said he saw nothing because he was forced to sit down with his hands tied behind him around a durian tree, along with two other men who were also being held hostage. When released in the afternoon he somehow failed to mention that his comrade and fellow policeman was buried nearby, along with the young Ranger Medan.

This failure to report the location of the grave seems strange to the public, as certainly the wife and family of the missing man expressed constant concern. Are we to believe no one asked the surviving detective the whereabouts of the two men held hostage with him? Certainly the police supervisor would seek to know of his missing man. There was widespread public interest, yet no answers were provided to clear up this mystery.

Jaafar Puteh, a durian collector, was taken hostage on Saturday afternoon on the day before the theft at the army bases. He was obviously present at the surrender. He did not point out the grave of the dead men. Why not? He was never out of police custody over the next ten days, when he suddenly died without any prior symptoms. His mysterious death implicates police responsibility, yet none of the facts relative to his strange treatment following the surrender were brought out by the defense attorneys at the trial.

During the months after the events of the Al Maunah incident, the rubber trees of Bukit Jenalik were tended daily as usual. It is a quiet area, with a number of farmers who tend vegetable plots along the rutted dirt road that leads up the hill. Thousands of people, curious to visit the site, travelled up the dirt road to see for themselves where the alleged events took place.

They came (and still come) because the whole story was so muddled and bizarre that none can believe it. Those who live nearby confirm the falseness of the story given to the reporters and cameramen, who were kept miles and miles away during the event. Nearby residents tell of heavy police and army presence at Bukit before the robbery. They were out in force during the week of the event, and for a long time afterwards. They gave warnings not to talk to anyone about what they saw and heard.

But thousands of visitors all saw for themselves that the holes atop Bukit Jenalik were too small to be used as a human grave. There was no latrine, as alleged, and no obvious sign of human occupancy. There were only the two concrete culvert pipes, standing vertically one upon the other, used as a water tank for irrigation. Newsmen were told the stolen guns were hidden inside. But the newsmen, when they inspected the rifles laid out for public inspection at the Kuala Kangsar police station, noticed the rifles were all new, as though taken fresh from their cases.

The weapons showed no sign of handling, with no scratches, no nicks, appearing to observers as new rifles freshly oiled. They had obviously never been handled, either by the regular soldiers they were said to have been stolen from or anyone else. This strange observation, made by hundreds of interested people, is incapable of explanation.

Back to the famous video. Where and when was the video made? It was not made at Bukit Jenalik, simply because there was no hole large enough to cover a small pig, much less the two grown men. Every civil servant was shown this video, and everyone saw it was produced after the alleged event. It was then shown about the country for the sole purpose of lending credence. It did not tend to support the unbelievable tale that was told, in all its inconsistent bits and pieces, by the IGP Norian Mai and the defense minister Najib to the assemblage of journalists who were sent to Sauk to cover the story. Why were they kept at such a distance they could not generate an independant account of the events?

If the pm wants anyone to believe the Al Maunah was anything more than an innocent martial arts group, and that the alleged robbery was anything other than a cruel and unnecessary escapade, poorly performed by his poltroons, then he should allow the defendants an opportunity to defend themselves. What he points to as a trial offering justice is nothing but another kangaroo court of his party's devising.

An earlier article (A Prediction of a Non-event, Sep 9, 2000) argued the trial would never be held. Events now prove otherwise. The arrogance and audacity shown since are beyond imagining. But again the chance comes round. The promised white paper is so pussed with pusilanimity, so penurious of piety, so propped by perjury, the pm dare not produce it.

One accepts with humility the earlier error; the depth of the demon's desperation was misjudged. Again chance tempts, filled to the funnels with risk of further failure. Yet the perfidy and deceit arouses ire. Finally one is forced to say heartily, "Bring out the white paper; detail the deed, should you dare."

Link Reference : HR Worldview: The Framing of the Al Mauna