KUALA LUMPUR: The controversy over why acting PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang was present at a meeting of radicals in Indonesia about two-and-a-half years ago continued yesterday, with Barisan Nasional leaders pushing for an investigation and PAS defending its leader’s actions.
Barisan leaders said they wanted to know whether the Terengganu Mentri Besar had ties with Jemaah Islamiah leader Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and Laskar Jundullah leader Agus Dwikarna, who were both present at the October 2000 meeting in Makassar, Sulawesi.
Hadi had claimed that he was invited by Universiti Hassanuddin and several NGOs there to give a talk in conjunction with the amendments to Indonesia’s constitution to provide autonomous powers to its provinces, including Sulawesi.
He denied involvement or links with any radical or militant group, leader or activity, either in Malaysia or abroad.
An article in The Star named him as an Islamic leader from Malaysia who had made the acquaintance of a group of Islamic radicals at Makassar.
Several Barisan leaders had since asked for a probe and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said on Saturday the Government would investigate Hadi’s visit.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai said police were gathering information on the meeting by liasing with their counterparts in Jakarta.
Abu Bakar, whose JI is said to have links with the al-Qaeda, is now being detained in Jakarta, and Agus, who had admitted that he had come to Malaysia to invite Hadi to attend the gathering, is now serving a 17-year prison term in the Philippines for possession of explosives and suspected involvement in bombings in Jakarta and Manila.
Agus, who was secretary-general of the Majlis Mujahidin Indonesia, had also attended a meeting of Rabitul Mujahidin (RAM) near the International Islamic University in Petaling Jaya together with Abu Bakar, KMM leader Nik Adli Nik Aziz, who is a son of Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and Hambali (also known as Riduan Isamuddin), the mastermind of JI and al-Qaeda’s operations leader in South-East Asia.
MCA vice-president Datuk Chan Kong Choy said Malaysians wanted to know about the three-day congress and not other meetings that Hadi talked about.
Chan said PAS should not blame the local media as Hadi’s presence was also reported by the Indonesian media, including respectable publications like Tempo and Inside Indonesia.
“Hadi himself has admitted that he was invited to the three-day congress, so he should not divert attention,” he said.
Deputy Information Minister Datuk Zainudin Maidin praised the local media for exposing Hadi's presence at the congress as it showed that they appreciated the national political aspirations, besides possessing a strong patriotic spirit.
“They (the media) are of the opinion that any suspicious movement and activity of national leaders, especially those that can jeopardise the country's future, should be exposed,” he told Bernama.
Zainudin said it was not proper for PAS to condemn the media for the exposure especially when several people met by Abdul Hadi were clearly involved in terrorism in the Philippines and Indonesia.
In Langkawi, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said the country’s economy could be affected by Hadi's action.
Irrespective of whether there were any links established on extremist grounds, the meeting could give rise to wrong interpretations about Malaysia and it might be labelled an extremist nation, she said after attending a Wanita Umno meeting.
“We will again be associated as a place where extremists (movements) or militants operate. Outsiders will not say PAS. They will say a leader from Malaysia,” Rafidah added.
In Kuala Klawang, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said Hadi's attendance at the meeting could mean he endorsed the militant activities of the group.
He said if Hadi had not endorsed the group's activities, he would not have attended the meeting in the first place.
“He should realise that the meeting was attended by those inclined towards terrorism,” he said after handing over schooling materials and financial aid to orphans here yesterday.
Dr Rais said the authorities had the right to quiz Hadi on his rationale for attending the meeting as it involved national security.
“As he is an administrator of a state in Malaysia, it is now a question of this country's image as other world leaders will have the misconception that all local leaders support such radical groups,” he said.
Therefore, Dr Rais said Hadi should be a responsible leader and make public his reasons for attending the meeting.
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