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Mahathir cannot shirk responsibility by passing the buck to the police but must come clean and apologise to the nation for masterminding Operation Lalang - the darkest chapter of human rights in Malaysia
Yesterday, Mahathir defended his human rights record, claiming that he never had anyone arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for political reasons:
"As for Ops Lallang (in 1987 when more than 100 people were detained) I can tell you I told Lim Kit Siang he will not be arrested, but then the police arrested him so I cannot just tell the police don't as they have their reason to do so.
"At that time they were playing up Chinese racial sentiments, and that's why they were detained. Not political, I don't detain political opposition and personalities under the ISA, I release them." (The Sun)
It would appear that apart from selective memory, Mahathir also suffers from faulty memory.
It is total news to me that before Operation Lalang, Mahathir told me that I would not be arrested but I was nonetheless detained under the ISA on the insistence of the Police.
It is unworthy of Mahathir to try to “pass the buck” to the Police for the responsibility for the Operation Lalang crackdown, as he not only defended the initial 106 arrests by the police under Section 73 of the ISA, he exercised his powers as Home Minister under Section 8 to formally issue two-year ISA detention orders for 49 Malaysians, including seven DAP MPs!
Mahathir had always made the false and baseless claim that DAP MPs had not been detained because they were MPs or their political beliefs, but for “trying to stir racial unrest”.
For instance, Mahathir told Asiaweek (11th November 1988): “A few are still under detention because they refuse to give up stirring racial hatred. (Lim) was arrested not because he was leader of the opposition but because he was stirring racial tension in the country…They will be detained until they come around to thinking it is not the right thing to do…”
I did not change a jot of my thinking during my detention that none of the Operation Lalang detainees should have been detained especially as “the real culprits of the tensions and grave situation” in Malaysia in October 1987 were left free completely, and not a single police officer interviewed me to secure my agreement to purportedly “give up stirring racial hatred” before my release in April 1989.
This applied to all the six DAP MPs detained under Operation Lalang – Karpal Singh, Lim Guan Eng, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, the late P. Patto, the late V. David and Lau Dak Kee – who were released without the so-called “come around to thinking it is not the right thing to do”, when they had done nothing wrong in the first place!
In fact, the personal, petty and vindictive nature in the misuse of an already very oppressive ISA was further highlighted by the fact that Guan Eng and I were the last two of the 49 Operation Lalang detainees to be released in April 1989 – when the various batches of releases started in June 1988.
I had always conceded that there were racial tensions in October 1987, but these racial tensions were not created by DAP MPs or others detained under Operation Lalang, but solely the deliberate and irresponsible creation of certain power-seekers in UMNO at a time when there was general insecurity at all levels of the UMNO leadership because of deep UMNO party split between two factions, one led by Mahathir and the other by Tengku Razaleigh-Musa Hitam.
As Bapa Malaysia and the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman said immediately after the Operation Lalang crackdown in November 1987, “It’s not a question of Chinese against the Government but his own party, UMNO, who are against him”. – The London Times, 9th November 1987.
The Government White Paper “Towards Preserving National Security” issued in March 1988 to justify the Operation Lalang detentions referred to the UMNO Youth Rally at the Jalan Raja Muda Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on 17th October 1987 with banners displaying slogans: “MAY 13 HAS BEGUN” and “SOAK IT (KRIS) WITH CHINESE BLOOD” but no action was taken against the UMNO Youth leaders who enjoyed immunity and impunity for such seditious and criminal incitements.
Mahathir cannot shirk responsibility by passing the buck to the police but must come clean and apologise to the nation for masterminding Operation Lalang, the darkest chapter of human rights in Malaysia, paving the way for a wholesale clampdown and subversion of the media, the judiciary and organs of state, whether the Police, the Election Commission or the Anti-Corruption Agency in the rest of his premiership.
What Malaysians should be very concerned is that 34 months after the Abdullah administration, promising reform and transition towards a clean and more accountable, transparent, democratic and just Malaysia, the systems, institutions and instruments of repression for another Operation Lalang crackdown and mass arrests are basically intact.
In fact, with Abdullah being increasingly pushed to the wall by Mahathir’s onslaughts, more and more Malaysians are asking whether there could be another Operation Lalang as an easy way out for the Abdullah premiership to stamp out dissent.
Can Abdullah give a public commitment that he will never permit or countenance an Operation Lalang ala-1987?
In his latest salvo after the Fifth Perdana Discourse Series yesterday, Mahathir returned to the case of the “cover-up” of a Cabinet Minister who was investigated by the Anti-Corruption Agency for corruption and whom he thought “action was going to be taken, but it was not taken”.
In his dialogue in June, Mahathir first mentioned this corruption case where before his resignation there was decision for action to be taken, but nothing had been done.
In the interest of integrity, Abdullah must publicly address this case and not allow it to cast a shadow over his administration.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman