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Fwd: MGG - Arms Heist Continues To Roil Gov.
By web aNtu

15/8/2000 7:25 am Tue

Subject: The Grik Arms Heist Continues To Roil The Government

The cabinet cannot understand why the official conflicting and confusing
accounts of the infamous arms heist in Grik, near the Malaysian border
with Thailand, is disbelieved. So, first it orders the armed forces and
the police to re-enact the heist on video to show the people on prime time
TV that what it said happened happened. Then it ordered the defence
minister to re-enact the heist, which he would before a blue ribbon
political audience, which includes, unusually, opposition parties on
Wednesday, 16 August 00. The armed forces and the police spent the past
three weeks shooting the video, the first two attempts dismissed as not
good enough. The final acceptable version is ready. This alone shows the
government's difficulty in convincing the people, which is made worse by
the recent Anwar conviction of nine years for s###my and the Abu Ha#san
Omar imbroglio. The government insists the hundred weapons seized from a
Wataniah battalion in Grik and one of its tactical forward posts were
rushed to Bukit Jenelik, six to seven kilometres from Sauk village, which
itself is about ten kilometres away from where the robbery took place.

The defence minister, Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak, told reporters the
re-enactment is to disprove the claim "that the whole Grik episode was a
"sandiwara" "... that the robbers could not have carted away their ma#sive
loot in just three four-wheel drive vehicles" He promised to prove that
the 15 robbers did in fact load the three vehicles with 80 M-16 files, two
Steyr AUG a#sault rifles, five M-16 M-16/203 grenade launchers, four
general purpose machine guns, 26 bayonets, 54 flare-trip wires and
pouches, 5000 rounds of ammunition of various calibre, ammunition
magazines and 40 rounds of MMHE grenades and drove to Sauk village.

The minister says it took 20 to 30 minutes. But he is disingenuous here.
There were two raids in the morning of July 3. The fifteen men struck
first, at 0230 on July 3, at the tactical forward outpost, taking 16 M-16
and a#sorted ammunition with them; then two hours later at the Wataniah
battalion, from whence they robbed what looks like the armoury of one
company. Normally, the separate companies constituting the battalion have
their own separate armoury, and the number suggests only one company was
hit. There is also some doubt if the first and second raids were carried
out by the same group.

You could cart these weapons, all 100 of them, in three Pajeros like
goods for a pasar malam sale, but it would be cramped indeed, with the 15
men crowding in. But it is not the transport of these weapons that is at
issue. It is the superhuman efforts of how it was readied for action
within 90 minutes from the raid. The officials went to great lengths to
prove that the heist was over by producing the weapons allegedly seized,
but that raised more questions than answers. Since the second raid at
least was done with some panache, with outriders accompanying the
"officer" into the battalion headquarters, and apparently given some
official recognition, loading these weapons into the Pajeros which already
was loaded with weapons from the tactical forward outpost does seem
unlikely. Besides, given that the 15 men had only 90 minutes of so before
daybreak to rush to Sauk and carry the weapons six or seven kilometres
away to Bukit Jenelik, something clearly is amiss.

There is some doubt that the weapons presented to the public were
indeed the ones that were stolen. There is also the nagging question of
why the armed forces continued to be involved in recovering the weapons
when the Inspector-General of Police no less had called the robbers criminals.
That, in normal military practice, took the armed forces out of the
picture, since that became a law-and-order issue. Instead, the field
commander attacks the opposition and others for disbelieving the official

Other nagging doubts are still unaddressed. Why did the 304 Wataniah
battalion hand the weapons willingly and without a fight? Was the
military command infiltrated before the heist so that the battalion was
expecting the robbers to turn up, and gave up the weapons as ordered? If
a well-armed battalion headquarters can be robbed with such ease, why is
not the larger issue of security and effectiveness addressed?

Army officers, retired, serving and military attaches, insist the three
Pajeros could not carry the load and 15 men; it would need at least two,
more likely three, three-tonne trucks. But more important issues than how
these weapons were carried to Bukit Jenelik is at stake. That is not
addressed. So, why is the government so stung as to want to prove the
weapons could be carried in three Pajeros? It can, but in the
circumstances it could not. Or does the government believe that once this
is proven, the rest of its conflicting story on what took place be
believed without a doubt?

It is much more than this. The government insists the Al-Maunah
group, which is accused of organising the heist, wanted to overthrow the
government, and hence charged them with treason. (It is a matter of
concern that someone who wages war against the King can, on conviction,
get death of life imprisonment, while one charged with possessing bullets
for a gun he had sold could get mandatary death as would one found with 15
gms of heroin). The government must act firmly. Many of those charged
are, or were, UMNO members. If they had been charged under the Arms Act
they had had to be sentenced to death. But the political fallout from 30
Malays sentenced to death raises the ante. So, it is treason, which
paradoxically, carries a lighter sentence. The extraordinary precautions
the government took when charging them underscored this, with the
Attorney-General, in a well-crafted statement, explaining why he did what
he did, senior police officers explaining to the families of those
accused, and otherwise mollycoddled. No, the enactment of the Grik arms
heist on Wednesday reveals a more serious credibility problem than the
government would dare admit.

M.G.G. Pillai