Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Death threats to politicians

PETALING JAYA: At around 3am on September 2008, a motorcyclist rode by the house of Seputeh MP Teresa Kok.

He flung a Molotov cocktail and a bottle containing a letter filled with vulgarities into the compound of the DAP politician’s home.

Fortunately, the bottles didn’t ignite. No one was hurt during the attacks.

But Kok felt fearful and worried. She believed the attack was to instil fear in her and to frighten her from performing her duties as an MP.

In 2009, Kok received another threat on her blog telling her that she, ‘should be taught with blood.’

“Will they come to kill me? It is probable. This is something that nobody can guarantee,” said Kok.

When asked if the threats have ever deterred her from carrying out her duties, she replied with a firm, ‘No.”

A question that pops up during these instances is: How many of the threats actually materialise?

Just two weeks ago, both Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and PKR Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim became the focus of twitter attacks telling them to be careful for their lives.

“To evaluate the seriousness of a death threat, we must assess the context and nature of the case. Politicians should always be alert when it comes to safety, especially high profile figures,” said Dr. Tunku Mohar Tunku Mohd. Mokhtar, lecturer of political science at IIUM.

“It has occurred before (deaths) although they are not common. Assassination isn’t part of our culture. Nevertheless, threats should not be taken lightly,” agreed political analyst Dr Shaharuddin Badaruddin.

Malaysian history tells of numerous high-profile deaths, murder and assault cases involving politicians.

In 1976, a plane crashed in Sabah killing then Chief Minister of Sabah, Tun Fuad Stephens. Conclusive reasons for crash are unknown and investigation reports remain classified, prompting speculation of foul play.

Conspiracy buffs have tried to link the timely death of Tun Fuad with the signing of Sabah’s oil rights to the Malaysian Federal Government, but without any hard evidence to prove this claim, all allegations remain nothing more than conjecture.

In 1982, Datuk Mokhtar Hashim, then Culture, Youth and Sports Minister was convicted for killing Datuk Taha Talib, State Assemblyman for Tampin, days before the 1982 general elections.

The court found that the bullet which killed Taha came from Mokhtar’s gun and the motivation for murder was thought to be political rivalry.

Notable unsolved cases involving politicians also include the murders of Lunas assemblyman Dr Joe Fernandez and Tenggaroh assemblyman Datuk S. Krishnasamy.

In 2000, Fernandez was driving home when he was shot dead by a pillion motorcycle rider. The motive for murder is uncertain, although religious reasons have been suggested. The Islamic militant group KMM (Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia) was suspected to have a hand in the crime but no clear evidence was found and the culprits are still at large.

In 2008 Krishnasamy was on his way to a meeting when he was shot in a lift in Johor’s MIC headquarters at point blank range. The case remains unsolved.

Despite these incidents, the number of deaths and murders involving politicians is relatively low, said Shaharuddin.

“In Malaysia, unlike other third world nations, we rarely see death threats becoming a reality. However, caution should be exercised at all times,” explained Shaharuddin who also pointed out that actions of such perpetrators are often unpredictable.

“Assassinations happen even in first world nations and we should do our best to avoid this path,” he added.


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