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Monday, May 30, 2011

WIKILEAKS: ‘Abu Sayyaf links turned Dr M red’

However, his attack against the Time magazine over the article was moderate as he was not personally mentioned and wanted to keep a lid on the possible links, said US diplomats.

The Time article appeared in its April 10, 1995 issue, alleging that Southern Philippine Muslim extremist group Aby Sayyaf was receiving arms, money and training for Islamic groups in various countries, including Malaysia.

K Kabilan, Free Malaysia Today

Dr Mahathir Mohamad was unusually moderate in his attacks against two articles which appeared to criticise his government in the Time and Fortune magazines in early 1995 as he was “not personally mentioned in the stories”.

Also, Mahathir was not keen to pursue his attacks against the Time magazine article in particular as it involved his government’s alleged links with the Abu Sayyaf movement from the Philippines.

“Given the murky general history of Moro-Malaysian dealings, he may feel it best not to go into too many details,” wrote US diplomats based in the US embassy here in their confidential cable to the US State Department in Washington. The confidential cable was dated April 13, 1995.

The cable was leaked by whistleblower site WikiLeaks and handed over to FMT today.

The US diplomats felt that Mahathir was quick with his anti-West attacks when the two articles were published, especially since the general election was imminent then. However, they noted his reaction was “moderate and apparently shortlived”.

The US diplomats felt the main reason for Mahathir’s muted attack on Time and Fortune was largely due to the fact that he was not personally targeted in the two articles.

The diplomats also mentioned that Mahathir could have been mindful that his recent anti-British and anti-Australian outbursts had not given him clear-cut victories.

They said that they felt that the Malaysian government did not wish to make an issue of the Time article, especially considering the historical ties between the Moro movement and Malaysia.

The Time article appeared in its April 10, 1995 issue, alleging that Southern Philippine Muslim extremist group Aby Sayyaf was receiving arms, money and training for Islamic groups in various countries, including Malaysia.

The article further claimed that Abu Sayyaf used training camps in Malaysia and was expecting arms shipments from Malaysian supporters.

Western media campaign

Mahathir’s reaction to the article was to immediately label it as “part of a campaign by the western media to discredit Malaysia” to deter investment and tourism.

The Time article came just after another article in the Fortune magazine which had said that the Malaysian currency was facing risk.

READ MORE HERE

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C O N F I D E N T I A L KUALA LUMPUR 001919


EAP/PIMBS

E.O.12356: DECL: OADR
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MY
SUBJECT: TIME UPSETS MAHATHIR

1. PRIME MINISTER MAHATHIR RESPONDED WITH ANTI-WEST RHETORIC TO AN ARTICLE IN THE APRIL 10 ISSUE OF TIME MAGAZINE WHICH ALLEGED THAT ABU SAYYAF, A SMALL MUSLIM EXTREMIST GROUP BASED IN THE SOUTHERN PHILIPPINES, WAS RECEIVING ARMS, MONEY AND TRAINING FROM ISLAMIC GROUPS IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES INCLUDING MALAYSIA. THE ARTICLE ALSO REPORTED THAT "THE GROUP USES TRAINING CAMPS IN MALAYSIA AND IS EXPECTING ARMS SHIPMENTS FROM SUPPORTERS THERE." THE PRIME MINISTER DESCRIBED THE PIECE AS A "PART OF A CAMPAIGN BY THE WESTERN MEDIA TO DISCREDIT MALAYSIA" TO "DETER PEOPLE FROM INVESTING AND VISITING HERE, GENERALLY AIMED AT UNDERMINING THE NATION'S ECONOMY AND ITS DEVELOPMENT." PEOPLE UNHAPPY WITH MALAYSIA'S "VOCIFEROUS" STAND ON INTERNATIONAL ISSUES, HE EXPLAINED, WERE BEHIND THE WESTERN MEDIA'S CONSPIRACY. HE ALSO CONFIDENTLY CHALLENGED TIME TO "COME TO MALAYSIA AND MAKE A REPORT HERE" THAT MALAYSIA IS TRAINING TERRORISTS. THE INFORMATION MINISTER ECHOED THE PM'S LINE. NO ONE FROM THE GOM HAS FORMALLY OR INFORMALLY COMPLAINED ABOUT THE ARTICLE TO US. SEVERAL OF OUR MALAYSIAN CONTACTS ARE CURIOUS ABOUT THE STORY -- THEY WANT TO KNOW IF IT'S TRUE.

2. COMMENT: MAHATHIR WAS STILL ANXIOUS ABOUT THE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF A RECENT FORTUNE ARTICLE WHICH DESCRIBED THE MALAYSIAN CURRENCY AS AT RISK POST-MEXICO, WHEN THE TIME PIECE CAME OUT. HE ORDERED A DELAY IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE TIME ISSUE BUT DID NOT BAN IT. (OBSERVERS EXPECT THE MAGAZINE WILL BE ALLOWED ON THE SHELVES IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS.) WITH THE GENERAL ELECTION JUST AROUND THE CORNER, HIS RHETORIC WAS VERY MUCH EXPECTED SINCE CONSPIRACY THEORIES STILL HAVE A FOLLOWING HERE. HOWEVER, AS COMPARED TO HIS PREVIOUS BOUTS WITH WESTERN MEDIA (MOST NOTABLY, DENYING CONTRACTS TO BRITISH FIRMS IN RESPONSE TO AN UNFLATTERING ARTICLE IN THE BRITISH PRESS), THE PM'S REACTION TO FORTUNE AND NOW TIME PIECES HAS BEEN MODERATE AND APPARENTLY SHORT LIVED. THERE MAY BE SEVERAL REASONS FOR THIS. DIFFERENT FROM PREVIOUS CASES, MAHATHIR WAS NOT PERSONALLY MENTIONED IN THE STORIES. FURTHER, THE LAST TWO ANTI-BRITISH AND ANTI-AUSTRALIAN OUTINGS HAVE NOT BEEN VIEWED AS CLEAR-CUT VICTORIES FOR THE PM. FINALLY, GIVEN THE MURKY GENERAL HISTORY OF MORO-MALAYSIAN DEALINGS, HE MAY FEEL IT BEST NOT TO GO INTO TOO MANY DETAILS. THE FACT THAT WE HAVE RECEIVED ALMOST NO QUERIES FROM THE PRESS IS FURTHER INDICATION THAT THE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT WISH TO MAKE AN ISSUE OF THIS AT THIS TIME.

CHAMBERLIN

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