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FAC: Assassinate Mahathir? Ho-hum!
By Raja Petra

11/1/2002 12:22 pm Fri

Friday, 11-Jan-2002 10:22 AM

Assassinate Mahathir? Ho-hum!

On Christmas Day, news broke that there exists a plot to assassinate Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Seri Dr Mahathir Mohammad. The report was carried as the Sun's headline story. Strangely enough though, no other newspaper carried the story; whether front page or back page.

The person allegedly behind the assassination plot is Raja Kamaruddin Raja Wahid, better-known as 'Raja Komando'. Raja Komando first met fame when he testified at Anwar Ibrahim's trail that he had attended a meeting chaired by Mahathir's political secretary then, Aziz Shamsuddin, to discuss how to fix Anwar up.

Raja Komando refused to be part of the conspiracy and immediately went to see Anwar to inform him of the plot. Raja Komando has since repeated this story many times in ceramahs and interviews and has challenged the government to arrest him if what he says is not true.

The government has so far not taken up the challenge though Raja Komando has seriously damaged Mahathir's credibility with his revelation. If you go by Raja Komando's story, clearly Anwar is a victim of a political conspiracy and the trials he was dragged through were just instruments in justifying his incarceration.

When Mahathir was approached about the assassination story he just laughed it off. He said he is used to and immune to such rumours as he has heard many in his twenty years as Prime Minister. He does not know where the Sun got their story from but he is sure the Sun, like any newspaper, would have their credible and reliable sources. Mahathir practically brushed the story aside and implied that Malaysians should just ignore it. After all, if it is true, the police would certainly have informed him about it. The fact the police said nothing means it cannot be true explained Mahathir.

The police, too, when asked about the matter, said they knew nothing about this assassination plot. This is the first time they had heard about it and would interview the Sun's reporters concerned to get more details.

It certainly looked like the Sun had stumbled across a scoop that not even the Prime Minister or the police were aware of. Where, therefore, did the Sun get their story from?

According to the Singapore Straits Times that interviewed the Sun's Editor-in-Chief, Mr. H'ng Hung Yong, the news report had actually been prepared two weeks before it was published. It was then shown to a certain Deputy Minister and his Deputy Press Secretary who okayed the report. Only then was it released.

Mr H'ng would not name the Deputy Minister or Deputy Press Secretary involved and would leave it to them to come forward and identify themselves. Understandably, the Deputy Minister and Deputy Press Secretary concerned have chosen to remain anonymous while Mr H'ng and the reporters involved were sacked for publishing a false news report.

The Sun subsequently published an apology. They, however, apologized to the Prime Minister and not to Raja Komando. If the assassination story is not true, then it is Raja Komando and not Mahathir who is the victim here. Why apologise to Mahathir instead of Raja Komando?

On New Year's Day, the Sun's staff picketed in protest of the sacking of their Editor-in-Chief and a few other journalists. According to the union spokesman, those sacked were not responsible for the story and should not be punished for it. The story had, in fact, come from 'higher up' and those sacked are now being made the fall guys. On the day the story was published, the person responsible for it - the higher up - was on leave leaving the juniors to run the story and take the fall for it.

The Sun's union also objected to the apology the Sun had made to the Prime Minister. It is fine to apologise if the story they ran was not true. But the story was true so why apologise? It seems the union knew much more about the matter than what the government thought. If we go by what everyone is saying, the story was not a mistake but part of a scheme and planted by certain higher ups in the Sun, in league with Deputy Ministers and Press Secretaries.

There appears to be the traditional Malaysian mystery at work here. From what is being reported by the Singapore Straits Times and statements from the Sun's union and recently deposed editors and journalists, there was no mistake. They knew what they were running - a story that was given to them by certain people of authority and subsequently approved by them for release. What, then, is going on?

I then checked with some other newspaper reporters and this is what one of them told me. This story, in fact, had first emerged THREE MONTHS before it was published in the Sun. This was when Bukit Aman had summoned all the reporters for a press briefing to inform them about the KMM issue. According to Bukit Aman, the KMM was behind the murder of Lunas State Assemblyman Dr Joe Fernandez and the bombings or burnings of Hindu Temples. And there is also a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister.

The reporters, however, were told not to publish the part about the Prime Minister's assassination plot as this information is for their knowledge only and not for publication. In short, there was an embargo on this part of the news.

As we all know by now, the story about the KMM was reported in full except for the part about the plot to assassinate the Prime Minister. But, as luck would have it, NONE of the Sun's reporters were present at the Bukit Aman briefing that day, and no one knows why? Did the Sun just not send anyone or were they not invited? No one would say. And, soon later, a story about the Prime Minister's assassination plot was leaked to the Sun.

My only conclusion is that the Sun was set up to run a story that was not true. The story was meant as a shocker to alarm Malaysians into turning against the opposition. Malaysians are a peace-loving people and, while they would oppose the government, bumping off the Prime Minister is something they would not tolerate. The plotters probably hoped that, once this news broke, people would be up in arms and demand the government arrest all the opposition leaders under the ISA.

But that was not how the people reacted. The story did not even cause a ripple let alone a stir. In fact, the day the story broke, the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange jumped 30 points. (It fell again a week later when the PM announced he would stay one more term).

The plot had backfired. If the people knew that the government was behind the story it would come out looking very stupid and, in future, any such stories would be brushed aside. So they had to declare the story false and make someone take the blame for it. That was the only way they could wash their hands off the whole thing.

And the poor Sun reporters were those 'assassinated' in the end.