Following the unprovoked assault on Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Malaysia Ibrahim Ansar at the Kuala Lumpur international airport that country’s Deputy Home Minister rather cursorily dismissed the incident and therefore Malaysia’s own responsibility as the host country to protect the person and dignity of an accredited diplomat. Deputy Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed called [...]


Malaysia’s nonchalance raises wider concern


Following the unprovoked assault on Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Malaysia Ibrahim Ansar at the Kuala Lumpur international airport that country’s Deputy Home Minister rather cursorily dismissed the incident and therefore Malaysia’s own responsibility as the host country to protect the person and dignity of an accredited diplomat.

Deputy Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed called it an “isolated incident triggered by political conflicts” and said it had nothing to do with “terrorism.”

What is worse is his prognosis that the “incident will not have any impact on Malaysia.”

The Deputy Minister cannot be more wrong. Already the envoys of India and US are reported to have raised this matter with the Malaysian authorities. It will not be long – if indeed it has not already happened several days back given the seriousness of what happened – before the dean of the diplomatic corps in Malaysia whoever that might be, protests at the violation of Article 29 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR 1961). That article is clear enough. It states that the person of a diplomatic agent “shall be inviolable”.

It goes on to say that the diplomatic agent “shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention and that the “receiving State shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity” which is the article relevant to what happened to our envoy.

There was indeed an attack on his person and his dignity and his freedom of movement was violated by a gang of thugs who were not directly involved in any political conflict in Sri Lanka and are probably the paid agents of a Sri Lankan militant group whose remnants are to be found in Malaysia.

The attack on Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Malaysia Ibrahim Ansar

If the Deputy Home Minister has heard of the Vienna Conventions but not read or understood them due to impaired comprehension he should be made aware that the responsibilities of the receiving state not only apply in peace time but also in times of armed conflict.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed appears to find solace – if sweeping it under the carpet was not his intention – in the fact that the attack on Ansar was precipitated by political rather than terrorist motives according to his conclusion.

The Deputy Minister might find that distinction comforting. But it would be surprising if Sri Lanka’s envoy and another diplomat who was also at the receiving end of the thuggery and were injured in this vicious attack as clearly seen in the video, would take solace in Jazlan Mohamed’s attempt to minimise this disgraceful act which was partly due to his government’s failure to act expeditiously and responsibly as it should have as the host state.

Nor would the diplomatic community in Malaysia some of who have suffered at the hands of robbers and snatch thieves including envoy Ansar’s wife, in the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

A physical assault on an accredited diplomat whether carried out by a terrorist or a political dissident is still a physical assault and surely an offence under Malaysia’s criminal law. That act is compounded by the fact that the victim was a diplomat who should have the protection of the host state and the attack happened in the so-called restricted area of the country’s main airport.

The Deputy Minister has the temerity to say that this was an “isolated incident” implying that it will not happen again. On what evidence or available information does he make such a prediction? Unless of course he is privy to what transpired right from the beginning when protests were launched against the invitation extended to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to participate at this conference on Asian political parties.

A question that would be uppermost in the minds of many including Kuala Lumpur-based diplomats and representatives of international organisations is whether the Deputy Minister knows much more than he is disclosing.

For the Deputy Minister to say with such certainty that this thuggery was an isolated incident and imply it will not happen again does raise suspicions whether the Malaysian authorities were aware of what was likely to happen or had anticipated it but did not take preventive action.

They cannot say that they were unaware of possible disturbances and the dangers that could flow from them as certain pressure groups had protested to the Malaysian authorities at the invitation extended to Mahinda Rajapaksa and there were sporadic demonstrations as the protestors tried to track down Rajapaksa.

The Sri Lanka High Commission had already alerted the Malaysians and called for security. The High Commission had assessed the situation correctly and taken the necessary precautions by pre-warning the relevant authorities which would have meant first alerting the relevant division of the Malaysian Foreign Ministry.

Malaysian diplomats posted abroad would have done the same had any of their visiting politicians or officials faced a similar threat. At least the Malaysian diplomats I have known during the last 50 years were very professional and capable officers and I have little doubt they would have acted correctly. It is others who seem to have failed in their duties of care.

Even at the airport when suspicious groups were observed the High Commission is reported to have informed the Malaysian authorities of the possible dangers.

So not only were the Malaysians warned ahead but the more disturbing fact is that the group of thugs that eventually assaulted Ansar had followed him to a restricted area of the airport which required passes for entry.

The question is why the airport authorities or the police or whoever is responsible for ensuring security in the international airport did not check whether the persons who followed Ansar into the security area had passes or permits that allowed them legitimate access to this area.

The New Indian Express correspondent P.K. Balachandran has in a detailed report set out the sequence of events. It is useful reading some paragraphs from Balachandran’s report which presents damning evidence of the state of play in Malaysia.

“An appalling lack of security at the airport and a corrupt Malaysian administration are blamed for the brutal assault on the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Malaysia, Ibrahim Sahib Ansar, by local Indian Tamil radicals at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on September 4.

Informed sources told Express that security at the KLIA is so lax that anyone can enter it and go up to the immigration area without any security check of their person and bags. There is no concept of VVIP security to ensure that high risk individuals are protected against demonstrators, thugs or terrorists. In fact the Sri Lankan envoy was beaten up by intruding thugs in the “No Entry” (High Security) area.

Envoy Ansar had alerted the police well in advance about a potential threat to Sri Lankan dignitaries in view of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to Kuala Lumpur to attend an international political parties’ conference. But no special security systems were put in place.

A day before the assault on him at the airport, the Malaysian police had informed the envoy of a plan to throw petrol bombs at his residence. Security at the house was stepped up but only for a day. Subsequent to the attack on him on September 4, no security was given to him despite a specific request put in by the Sri Lankan government.”

One might then ask whether those thugs were known to the security at the airport, had entre’ to the restricted area and therefore may have connections to Malaysian politicians, or to corrupt police/officials who let them in.

After all the people of Sri Lanka are quite acquainted with the conduct of some of their politicians, officials and police to be shocked at the goings-on in Malaysia as reported by Balachandra.

The Deputy Home Minister is quite casual about the incident having no impact on Malaysia. That surely is a curious and dangerous thing to say. Perhaps if he abandons behaving like two of the three proverbial monkeys who see nothing and hear nothing and casts his eyes round the world he might come to his senses.

How many acts of terror in which dozens or more have died have been reported from different parts of the world in the last six months for instance? It is also widely known that newly formed militant groups or political formations intent on spreading terror are attracting radicalised youth and others who fall prey to the promise of martyrdom or a romanticised notion of the cause. They come from different countries, different backgrounds and different ethnicities. Yet their goal is the same.

Increasingly State surveillance is widened and security tightened at airports and other points of departure from a country to prevent citizens and foreigners leaving to join militant organisations such as ISIS that is attracting youth – both male and female – as those living in the UK have learnt in the last year or two.

Some ethnic minority youth born in the UK including young school girls have left their families behind and surreptitiously left to join such organisations that are spreading their radical message. Media reports have said that some of them have already been killed.

The more security is tightened particularly at western airports and border crossings, the more these potential recruits or their minders search for other routes via which they could reach their destinations.

So airports where security is lax and unchecked visitors seem to be able to come and go as they please are surely vulnerable both as points of departure or as targets of attack by militants who wish to popularise their ‘case’ irrespective of how they do it and whatever the consequences.

We know from experience that politicians do speak a lot of rubbish often to cover up their own failings or those of their government. Malaysia’s Deputy Home Minister is no exception. When he says the Ansar assault will have no impact on Malaysia he is contributing to the pile-up of political rubbish.

The publicity that this incident has received in the media not only in Sri Lanka and Malaysia but in the wider region and the widely distributed video have only exposed the lackadaisical approach of Malaysian authorities to security, especially at its main international airport and the danger posed to foreign diplomats in the host country.

These are surely issues that would not have gone unnoticed by those who wish to harm society or individuals irrespective of the consequences.

The Deputy Minister also said that this incident was triggered by politics. Then could he explain why a monk at the Senthul Buddhist Vihara was attacked by the same thugs or their colleagues? Is he saying that the monk was also involved in the politics that he speaks of? Or was he the innocent victim of the kind of ‘terrorist’ politics that Malaysia breeds?

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