Country Report on Terrorism 2009 - Chapter 2 - Malaysia

The police forces in Malaysia, which fall under the authority of the Home Ministry, continued to conduct all counterterrorism investigations and operations in the country. In 2009, the Prime Minister’s Office created a new office, the Special Task Force (Operations/Counterterrorism), within the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) to handle counterterrorism-related investigations, a function previously conducted by the RMP Special Branch. By year’s end, Malaysia had not initiated prosecution of any terrorist suspects using legislation amended in 2007 in order to accede to the UN International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, but continued to rely on the Internal Security Act (ISA) to detain terrorist suspects. Under the ISA, the authorities can detain suspects without trial for up to two years, a period the Home Minister can extend in two-year increments.

At year’s end, five terrorist suspects linked to Jemaah Islamiya (JI) were held in ISA detention. This included one well-known JI operative, Mas Selamat bin Kastari, whom the Malaysian authorities detained in April. Kastari had been on the run in Malaysia after escaping from prison in Singapore in February 2008. The Malaysian government has held suspected terrorists and suspected terrorist supporters in ISA detention from one to six years. While imprisoned, these terrorist suspects receive de-radicalization training from Malaysian authorities, and are only released after the government believes they are no longer a threat to society. The authorities continued to monitor terrorist suspects after their release, and imposed restrictions on their activities and their travel. Because of growing domestic and international pressure, the Malaysian government has become more cautious about employing the ISA to detain persons it suspects of terrorist activities, and has been slowly reducing the number of those detained under the ISA. In 2009, the authorities released 39 ISA detainees, 29 of whom were alleged members of terrorist organizations JI or Darul Islam.

The Malaysian government allows travelers from many nations to enter the country without visas, to promote trade and tourism. Persons from most Islamic countries can enter Malaysia without visas, although immigration authorities do scrutinize these travelers and screen for known terrorists. Malaysian authorities will detain terrorist suspects if they become aware of their presence in the country, and have actively cooperated with other countries to deport these suspects.

The Malaysian government engaged with its neighbors, both bilaterally and in international fora such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, on issues related to counterterrorism and transnational crime. It continued to operate the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Counterterrorism. The Center has served to facilitate the training of Malaysian front-line officials, but has done less to identify forward-looking or regional counterterrorism priorities. The organization largely depends on initiatives from donor countries, including the U.S., Japan, Australia, and Canada, to sponsor its training program.

Malaysian mediators continued to work in the southern Philippines to help end the conflict between the Government of Philippines and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Malaysia played an active role in mediating negotiations between the two sides. A Malaysian official served as a mediator between the Government of Philippines and the MILF, and Kuala Lumpur played host to meetings between the two sides as well as to the International Contact Group – a group of four countries, seen by both parties as neutral, which lend their weight to the negotiations. Malaysia, along with Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand, conducts the “Eyes in the Sky” program designed to provide enhanced security to the Strait of Malacca, the world’s busiest shipping lane. Malaysian authorities also cooperate with their Thai counterparts along the border to prevent insurgents from Southern Thailand from using Malaysia as a safe haven.

Malaysia’s central bank has signed memoranda of understanding on the sharing of financial intelligence with the Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) of many countries in the region. Malaysia is an active member of the Asia/Pacific Group Donor & Provider Group for Technical Assistance and has worked with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, United Nation Counterterrorism Committee Executive Directorate, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Malaysia is working with the United States to help develop an effective FIU in Afghanistan.