TAIPING (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian government is ready to set up a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to probe the Memali tragedy in 1985 if there is demand for it, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
"I will personally study all the reports on the incident," he said when opening the Bukit Gantang Umno division delegates' conference on Sunday (Aug 20).
Zahid, who is also an Umno vice-president, said in upholding the law, all should set aside their differences.
In the Memali incident on Nov 19, 1985, 18 people, among them four policemen, were killed and many others injured after police launched an operation to arrest religious teacher Ibrahim Mahmud, also known as "Ibrahim Libya".
Ibrahim was a fiery preacher and a local leader of opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). He was accused of "deviant teachings" and was to be arrested under the tough Internal Security Act.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who became prime minister in 1981, was reported then to be in China, and the operation was handled by his deputy prime minister and home minister Tun Musa Hitam. There were conflicting reports later of whether Mahathir was in Malaysia at the time of the incident.
Zahid said former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam, in his book Frankly Speaking, stated that he was instructed to eliminate Kampung Memali over elements of violence and militancy committed by PAS leaders.
In this regard, Zahid said the leader who said he was not in the country on the day of the incident needed to admit that he was indeed in the country at the time.
"The Memali incident happened over two decades ago, but we have to keep in mind that the victims, families and children were denied their rights," he said.