In a statement last week, Musa said he had asked Dr Mahathir to put off his China trip and cited three reasons: the incident had taken place in the prime minister’s home state of Kedah; it had involved Malay Muslims; and the postponement would convey the perception that the head of the country’s government’s concern and priority for a domestic crisis.
The day before Dr Mahathir’s trip to China, the police and residents in Memali clashed resulting in the death of several policemen and civilians, including local PAS leader Ibrahim Mahmud — also known as Ibrahim Libya.
“On Nov 20, 1985, I led a massive private sector delegation to China because I believed there were abundant trade opportunities with China which had then only opened up to external trade participation.
“I cannot recall Tun Musa (Hitam) coming up to me to ask me not to go to Beijing but he was, with many others, at the airport, to wish me well on my trip to China.
"Even at that time I cannot recall if he (Musa) had advised me against going abroad," Dr Mahathir said in a posting on his blog Chedet.com.
Dr Mahathir said he was very confident in Musa's ability in handling the situation and that he had appointed the latter as the acting prime minister.
“I returned home on Nov 28, 1985. When I was abroad, there were no incidents that could not be handled by the deputy prime minister who was then the acting prime minister.
“The issue with regards to me not being in Malaysia when the incident occurred was not spread by me. I did not mention this at all in my book. What is publicly known is that Dato Musa Hitam was the Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister at that time.
“The Inspector General of Police discussed and reported to him as the Home Minister. The Home Minister is also involved in making the decision on actions that needed to be taken. It is surely unbecoming if when things were going well, only then one admits to the responsibility.”