Terrorism in Malaysia

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This article is about the extent of terrorism in Malaysia, including historical background, laws concerning terrorism, incidence of terrorism and international terrorism from the Malaysian perspective.

Defining Terrorism in Malaysia[edit]

The international community has not been able to come to a universally-accepted definition of terrorism. The difficulty in defining terrorism stem from the fact that it is politically and emotionally charged. The history of terrorism incidence in Northern Ireland, Middle East and South East Asia indicate that terrorism is perpetrated by a group of aggrieved people that see violence as the only mean of achieving their political goals. The loose definition of terrorism resulted in the execution of State-sanctioned terrorism as well as acts of terror carried out by militant groups, each trying to legitimise their act of terror.

Linguistic Definition[edit]

Linguistically, terrorism is defined[1] as:

  • Use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes
  • State of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorisation
  • Terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government

Malaysia's Effort in Defining Terrorism[edit]

After the terrorist attack on World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, Malaysia has actively emphasised on the need to define terrorism in view of increasingly discriminatory environment against the Muslims. In an Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting on April 4, 2002, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad proposed 'a definition for terrorism encompassing all violence targeted at civilians, which he said included the Sept. 11 attacks, Palestinian and Tamil suicide bombers as well as assaults by Israel in the Palestinian territories'.[2] However, the proposal was met with resistance from the Arab countries, for fear that it will criminalised the Palestinian struggle for statehood.

Terrorism Definition in Malaysia's Anti-Terrorism Legislation[edit]

The Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Act 747) was enacted to specifically deal with terrorism. Under the Act, the following actions warrant the invocation of the law:

  • To cause, or to cause a substantial number of citizens to fear, organised violence against persons or property
  • To excite disaffection against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Supreme Ruler)
  • Which is prejudicial to public order in, or the security of, the Federation or any part thereof
  • Procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of anything by law established

Act 747 makes further reference to Chapter VI of the Penal Code (Act 574) that provides the basis for arrest for offences committed against the Federation.

However, it is interesting to note that the now-repealed Internal Security Act 1960 (Act 82) provides a clear definition of a terrorist. A terrorist, under Act 82, means any person who:

  • By the use of any firearm, explosive or ammunition acts in a manner prejudicial to the public safety or to the maintenance of public order or incites to violence or counsels disobedience to the law or to any lawful order
  • Carries or has in his possession or under his control any firearm, ammunition or explosive without lawful authority therefore
  • Demands, collects or receives any supplies for the use of any person who intends or is about to act, or has recently acted, in a manner prejudicial to public safety or the maintenance of public order

The National Security Council, Malaysia's top policy-making body with regard to national security, defined terrorism as:

  • Unlawful use of threat or the use of force or terror or any other attack by person, group or state regardless of objective or justification aim at other state, it citizens or their properties and its vital services with the intention of creating fear, intimidation and thus forcing government or organisation to follow their impressed will including those act in support directly or indirectly[3] (refer to Directive No. 18, issued by the National Security Council)

Malaysia's Policy on Terrorism[edit]

Official Policy[edit]

Malaysia's policy on terrorism[3] is clearly stipulated in Directive No. 18 (Revised) issued by the National Security Council. Malaysia is putting the emphasis on:

  • Denouncing any form of terrorist acts
  • Protection of hostages' life and property
  • Preference for negotiated solutions
  • No exchange of hostage to resolve the crisis
  • Strike action as a last resort following failure of negotiation

Total Defence (HANRUH) Concept[edit]

Since 2006, the Malaysian Government has implemented the concept of total defence (HANRUH)[4] as part of the national defence doctrine. The Malaysian Government defined the total defence concept as a form of overall and integrated defence involving government agencies, private sectors, non-governmental bodies and citizens of Malaysia to protect the sovereignty and integrity of Malaysia. Under this concept, the Malaysian Government has identified 5 total defence components:

  • Psychological integrity
  • Consolidation and unity of Malaysians
  • Public preparedness
  • Economic integrity
  • Security preparedness

Psychological Integrity[edit]

Under the component of psychological integrity, the vision is to prepare the Malaysian citizens to continuously ready and committed to protect the sovereignty and integrity of the country. The main objectives are to instil the following among the citizens:

  • Sense of patriotism and nationalism
  • Sense of love to the country
  • Sense of pride to be Malaysians
  • Sense of readiness to sacrifice for the country
  • Sense of harmony, unity and national integration
  • Well-informed citizens

Consolidation and Unity of Malaysians[edit]

The vision of consolidation and unity of Malaysians is to create a harmonious and unified Malaysian race (Bangsa Malaysia) regardless of status, race, religion, culture and origin. The main objectives are to instil the following among the citizens:

  • Caring
  • Tolerance
  • Collaboration
  • Share similar vision and goal
  • Respect religious diversity

Public Preparedness[edit]

Public preparedness focuses on two main aspects, namely:

  • Provision of sufficient access to protection of life and property
  • Ensure security and continuous supply of basic amenities in the event of war, emergency and disaster

In order to ensure that the above focuses achieve its intended vision, the Malaysian Government has established the following as part of the implementation strategy:

  • Rescue and emergency assistance services
  • Fire safety brigade
  • Food supply and distribution services
  • Assign Malaysia Civil Defence Department as the lead agency to coordinate and implement all public preparedness programs in collaboration with public emergency response services and other volunteer associations

Economic Integrity[edit]

The economic integrity component seeks to ensure solid economic prosperity and continuous competitiveness level. Three main factors identified under this component are:

  • Stockpile of necessity items
  • Staple food supply as a national strategic asset
  • Ensuring transportation, energy and water supply continue to be provided without interruption and not under threat

The action plan for economic integrity is formulation of a national agriculture policy to reduce dependency on imported products and diversify national production.

Security Preparedness[edit]

Security preparedness involve the policing and military forces of the country. The main task for the police force is to ensure public order, providing assistance to other government agencies, protecting lives and properties as well as assisting the cause of war. The military is responsible to protect national interest and sovereignty.

History of Terrorism in Malaysia[edit]

The Birth of the Malayan Communist Party[edit]

The South Seas Communist Party was established in 1922. The South Seas Communist Party gave way to the formation of Malayan Communist Party (MCP) in 1930. Throughout its formative years in Indonesia and Singapore, the party was actively involved in a failed revolution attempt in Indonesia and workers' union in Singapore. The failure of the 1925 uprising in Indonesia had caused a large influx of Indonesian communists into Singapore.

Within the fourth decade of 20th century (1930 - 1939), the MCP was operating illegally. Many of party members and leaders were arrested when their identities were exposed with the capture of a Kuomintang courier. In 1939, the British had managed to install one of their agents, Lai Teck, as the Secretary General of the MCP.

Japanese Invasion[edit]

The Japanese army invaded Malaya on December 8, 1941. The British administration in Singapore had then accepted the offer by the MCP to provide manpower. The British military administration trained the MCP volunteers and with the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, the British left Malaya, leaving behind a very nascent militia group. This nascent militia group was known as the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA). The MPAJA continued with their guerilla warfare against the Japanese forces until the Japanese surrendered in 1945.

There was a power vacuum in Malaya after the Japanese troop left. The MPAJA members went out from their jungle hideouts and begun their reprisal campaign against Japanese collaborators, the police regiment and civilians. Their reprisal campaign could have been the first known terrorism acts against the general population,

Formation of the British Military Administration and Establishment of the Malayan Union[edit]

The interim British Military Administration (BMA) was established on September 12, 1945, headed by Lord Louis Mountbatten. The BMA urged the MPAJA to surrender their weapons, which they reluctantly agreed. By 1948, the BMA was facing growing threat of strikes by the labour unions, which was infiltrated by communist agents. This culminated in the murder of 3 European planters at Sungai Siput, Perak on June 12, 1948. The death of the planters at Sungai Siput would mark the beginning of the Malayan Emergency.

The Malayan Union was formally established on April 1, 1946 and Sir Edward Gent was appointed as its first Governor.

The Malayan Emergency (1948 - 1960)[edit]

The Malayan Union was replaced by the Federation of Malaya on January 31, 1948. The creation of the Federation run contrary to the vision of the MCP to establish a communist state in Malaya.

The proclamation of Emergency was announced on June 16, 1948. Following the proclamation of Emergency, hundreds of MCP party members were arrested and scores of MCP's senior leadership and members fled into the jungle. The remnants of MCP then established Malayan People's Anti-British Army (MPABA). The MPABA was later renamed as Malayan People's Liberation Army (MPLA) on February 1, 1949, with the aim of establishing a People's Democratic Republic of Malaya (including Singapore).During this period, the MPLA conducted campaign of terror against civilian population, including intimidation, murder and coercion.

Amnesty and Baling Talks[edit]

See also: Baling Talks

On July 27, 1955, the Federation of Malaya held its first general election, which was won by the Alliance coalition. Tunku Abdul Rahman became the Federation's first Chief Minister. Earlier in the same year, Tunku had proposed to grant amnesty to the MCP members and leadership, on condition that the MCP would lay down their arms, disband the MCP, submit to speedy investigation and allegiance to the Federation. The MCP on the other hand, would like to have their party to be recognised, communist members be given their right of return to the Federation and assurance that no communist party members will be interrogated and made to sign a declaration of loyalty to the Federation. The amnesty offer was announced on September 8, 1955.

Baling Talks was undertaken by the administration of Tunku Abdul Rahman on December 28, 1955. The talks collapsed without any deal sealed as the Federation delegation, led by Tunku himself and the MCP, led by its Secretary General, Ong Boon Hwa, better known as Chin Peng, refused to compromise. The amnesty offer was withdrawn on February 8, 1956.

Independence and the Communist Insurgency War[edit]

The Federation achieved its independence on August 31, 1957. The independence of the country removed the major cause of struggle for the communists. The communists continue to dwindle in strength and the Emergency was officially revoked on July 31, 1960. However, the MCP launched another major offensive against Malaysian government forces, beginning with an attack on border patrol troop at Kroh-Betong, northern Peninsula Malaysia on June 17, 1968.[5] Skirmishes, bombings and assassinations continued until the signing of a tripartite peace treaty between Malaysian and Thai Governments as well as the MCP on December 2, 1989.

Malaysian Terrorists[edit]

Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammed Top are terrorists from Malaysia responsible and as key persons in bombing incidents in Indonesia.[6]

Notable incidents[edit]

Malaysian Airlines System Flight 653 Hijacking[edit]

Malaysian Airline System Flight 653 crashed at Tanjung Kupang, Johor, on the evening of December 4, 1977,[7] the result of an apparent hijacking by unknown assailants as soon as it reached cruise altitude. It was the first and deadliest fatal accident for Malaysia Airlines (as Malaysian Airline System is now known), with all 93 passengers and 7 crew, from 13 countries,[8] killed instantly.[9][10] The Boeing 737 was en route from Penang International Airport to Singapore International Airport (Paya Lebar) via Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport. The circumstances in which the hijacking and subsequent crash occurred remain unsolved.

AIA Building Hostage Crisis[edit]

On August 5, 1975, a group of Japanese Red Army (JRA) terrorists launched a coordinated operation to several foreign embassies, housed in AIA Building in Kuala Lumpur city centre. They took 50 hostages, including an American consul and a Swedish diplomat. The JRA terrorists seek the release of their comrades from the Japanese Government and they had threatened to kill the hostages if the Japanese Government did not meet their demand. The crisis ended with five comrades released from the Japanese prison and the terrorists flew to Libya.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]