SUBANG JAYA: On June 7, 1974, Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police, Abdul Rahman Hashim, was gunned down by two assassins on one of Kuala Lumpur’s busiest streets in broad daylight.
The assassination horrified the nation and stumped the police.
Half a century later, questions about the killing continue to haunt his son, former crime reporter Najib Rahman.
Najib, then 26, was on his way to work at the New Straits Times and drove by the site of the killing minutes after his father was shot. He was to find his father dead in the back seat of his car.
Memories of the scene, together with unanswered questions that have lingered for decades, refuse to go away.
There was neither a perpetrator nor a motive for the killing. The case was never solved, although the file was closed.
Like every unsolved crime, Abdul Rahman’s death at the age of 51 created a vacuum that people filled with their theories.
The lack of resolve in the police force to find the killers of the country’s top police officer has long been questioned.
An official account has laid the blame on two hitmen of the Communist Party of Malaya, acting on the orders of their leader Chin Peng.
If it was a communist hit, why did not the Malaysian government demand that the CPM hand over the killers during peace negotiations in 1989?
Two men were implicated for Abdul Rahman’s killing, but they were never tried.
Instead, Lim Woon Chong and Ng Foo Nam were hanged for killing Perak chief police officer Khoo Chong Kong and his driver, constable Yeung Peng Chong, in 1975 at a traffic light junction in Ipoh.
They were executed in Pudu Jail in 1980 for the double murder.
The two men were also charged with the killing of Abdul Rahman, but never faced trial for the crime.
Before he was to be hanged for the Perak murder, Lim applied to the courts to allow him to clear his name of the IGP’s killing. He instructed his lawyer, the late Karpal Singh, to apply for his execution to be deferred.
Karpal applied to the Kuala Lumpur High Court to have the IGP murder case called up, on a certificate of urgency. The late Harun Hashim, then a High Court judge, directed that Lim’s trial on the murder charge proceed immediately.
However, the charge was withdrawn by the deputy public prosecutor, the late T S Sambanthamurthi. The judge ordered that Lim be acquitted.
There was no fresh investigation.
In 2010, Najib wrote a poignant account in the NST about his father’s killing, which provoked calls to reopen the case. Nothing happened.
The murdered IGP’s heartbroken loved ones are still left without answers.
In a conversation at his Subang Jaya home last week, Najib spoke about the dark cloud hanging over the family, going over the questions that will not go away and how the family has dealt with non-closure.
To revisit the killing of the IGP is to travel back to a starker time in Malaysia, when the country was facing a second revolt by a branch of the Communist Party of Malaya.
Abdul Rahman had been with the Special Branch from 1960-1972 when “Reds” wreaked terror and hogged newspaper headlines.
It was also a time when Malaysia witnessed the rise of radical politics and the emergence of “anti-nationals”.
It was also a time when Abdul Rahman was planning to initiate reforms in the police force, and there was speculation that he was about to expose wrongdoings involving someone high up.
Abdul Rahman had a reputation of not being known to carry any baggage, political or money-wise.
That Friday, June 7, 1974, he was due to attend a meeting of the Thai-Malaysian General Border Committee, being held at the Federal Hotel in Jalan Bukit Bintang.
However, “something urgent cropped up” on his father’s way to attend the meeting, Najib says.
Thus it was that Abdul Rahman was driven from his quarters, a government-owned colonial bungalow in Jalan Kia Peng, to federal police headquarters at Bukit Aman instead.
Two gunmen were waiting for him in ambush at Weld Street (Lorong Raja Chulan) which Abdul Rahman’s car reached before 8am.
He does not know what caused the re-routing. But he knows that was the route his father normally took to go to his office.
Najib himself was driving past Weld Street at about 8.20am on his way to the NST when he noticed a group of people swarming around a car.
He was spotted by an NST court reporter, the late Christal Kraal, who had been on her way up the staircase to Court Hill (now Dataran Maybank). Looking rather distressed, she told him that a senior police officer had been shot.
Najib’s crime reporter’s instincts kicked in. “This is a big story,” he told her.
In the chaotic minutes that followed, looking down from the Court Hill staircase, he saw the roof of a sky-blue Mercedes Benz.
There was only one such blue Mercedes-Benz in the city. It was his father’s. Abdul Rahman was lying motionless at the back seat, uniform soaked with blood.
The gunmen had fired automatic pistols at the IGP and his driver, Sergeant Omar, who took a nick in the neck and fled the scene.
“I remember the feeling that ran through my body. It will live in me and haunt me for the rest of my days,” said Najib, who later went on to serve with Berita Harian, where he retired as an editor.
Najib’s thoughts on the killing and issues that followed are in Q & A format below.
Q: Are you unhappy that the police have not explained your father’s assassination?
Sure, police have explained but it was murky from the start. Still is. There was no conviction.
The prime minister then, the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, was convinced that the assassination was the work of “anti-nationals”. He did not say “communists” even though the country was under siege from an offshoot of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).
But the day after the murder, the Home Affairs Minister, the late Ghazali Shafie, blamed the communists. Police joined the chorus because they contended that the CPM clandestine radio had cheered the murder.
But there was no corroboration.
Yes, police put out purported eye-witness sketches of the assassins, but the hunt died quickly after that.
Which then raises the question: why did Tun Razak use the term anti-nationals, and not communists? Until today, nobody has explained it properly.
Q: In 2010, the IGP, Musa Hassan, claimed the case was closed as two CPM members had been arrested. The prime minister, Najib Razak, however said new evidence was hard to unearth because it happened decades ago. Your thoughts.
I don’t think it’s for Musa to unravel the murder mystery. By the time he became IGP, all leads had gone cold. He could only quote the “official” findings of the police.
The question should be directed at Musa’s predecessor, Hanif Omar, who was IGP for 15 years after my father’s murder.
The assassins of the Perak CPO denied killing my father.
Najib Razak did not believe it was them, and Karpal, who represented one of the accused, believed it wasn’t them.
I, too, do not believe it was them because, knowing the communist psyche, both men would have crowed to high heaven had they done it.
Further, every communist in the jungle would have sung their names had they been the ones who shot Malaysia’s No 1 policeman.
But the two were charged in court, found guilty and were hanged for a subsequent murder. Not the IGP’s.
Q: Do you find it odd that no one had been tried for your father’s murder?
I don’t find it to be just odd. I find it immensely disturbing that the police did not seriously pursue the actual murderers of their No. 1 chief come hell or high water!
I feel that some “force or forces” had influenced investigations.
Which brings back the question: Why did Tun Razak blame the killing on “anti-nationals”. Who are the anti-nationals?
But Tun Razak’s contention was quickly cut off by the police contention that the dastardly act was executed by the communists.
And that assertion died unproven after Lim and Ng were hanged for the murder of the Perak CPO and his driver. They were not tried for the murder of my father.
The police did not pursue the murder of their chief with full conviction.
If the communists were responsible, the Malaysian government could have demanded that the CPM hand over the actual murderers during the 1989 Hat Yai Peace Accord when the “Reds” laid down arms.
But there was no such demand.
So, if it cannot be proven that it was the communists who shot the IGP who then did it?
Which brings us back to the “anti-nationals” that Tun Razak had referred to. Who were they? Were they individuals who feared what father knew about them, and had ordered their arrest? Or a powerful organisation?
Q: Would you insist the findings into your father’s murder are made public?
I do not think the police had conclusive findings to make it public. The case died a natural death and neither new compelling and irrefutable evidence has been unearthed nor new suspects detained.
Q: Karpal Singh called for fresh investigations three times in Parliament in 2004 and 2010. Do you think it warrants parliamentary debate after all these years?
The current political situation in the country does not augur well for a parliamentary debate.
Further, the grounds for one have not been sufficiently prepared. If Karpal was around I believe he would push for a debate, but he has passed on and the case died with him.
Q: How has your family dealt with non-closure to the case?
The family, by and large, has come to terms over father’s death. We have accepted it as fate. After 46 years we have become stoical.
But many are querying. Relatives and friends are still asking questions.
Even strangers, when they know I am the son of the IGP who was shot, have asked: “Who killed your father?” “Did police catch them?” “If not, why not?”
Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.