Apology from PM Abdullah to 106 Ops Lalang ISA detainees

At this hour on this day 20 years ago, Lim Guan Eng, who had been elected Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka for just a year, had already been detained as the first of 106 detainees representing a wide spectrum of dissent, including MPs, civil rights leaders, Chinese educationists and social activists in the Operation Lalang mass arrests under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

By this hour 20 years ago, Karpal Singh and I had also been detained, when together with other DAP MPs we went to the High Street Kuala Lumpur Police Station over Guan Eng’s detention.

The 1987 Ops Lalang mass ISA detentions was not only a black day for human rights in Malaysia, it also marked the most relentless assault on democracy in Malaysia and we are still paying the consequences of that assault — which stemmed from the fight for political survival of the then Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad who was faced with the greatest challenge to his power position from within Umno.

One upshot of Mahathir’s battle for his political life 20 years ago was the Operation Lalang and 106 ISA detainees and another was the subversion of the doctrine of the separation of powers, with Parliament and the judiciary subordinated as subservient organs of the Prime Minister.

The seeds for the 1988 judiciary crisis over the arbitrary and unconstitutional sacking of Tun Saleh Abas as Lord President and Datuk George Seah and the late Tan Sri Wan Suleman Pawanteh as Supreme Court judges were sown at this period.

Even before the Operation Lalang, there were moves by Mahathir to subjugate the judiciary and I had publicly spoken up against a proposal to move a substantive motion in Parliament to censure the then High Court judge, the late Justice Harun Hashim, as a lesson to all judges to toe the Executive line.

Today, Malaysia is still paying a heavy price for the fateful decisions taken 20 years ago to undermine the democratic fundamentals in the country as represented by the doctrine of the separation of powers — with the country reeling from one judiciary crisis to another in the past two decades, the latest over the failure of judicial leadership of the Chief Justice, Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, the Lingam Tape scandal, Ahmad Fairuz preposterous application for a six-month extension as Chief Justice from Nov. 1 and whether Malaysia will have an UMNO Chief Justice for the first time in 50 years.

Although the doctrine of the separation of powers and the principle of the independence of the judiciary had been subverted for nearly two decades, the judicial landscape is not totally bleak and desolate as evidenced by the courageous and path-breaking judgment by the Kuala Lumpur High Court a week ago in awarding an ISA detainee, Abdul Malek Hussin RM2.5 milion in damages for having been unlawfully arrested, detained and beaten up while in police custody in 1998.

This landmark decision was made by High Court judge Datuk Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus — and this Hishamudin is not that Hishammuddin of the “Malay keris” notoriety!

On Thursday, the Barisan Nasional MP for Jerai, Datuk Badruddin Amiruldin openly attacked Justice Hishamudin from the floor of Parliament during his speech on the 2008 Budget, denouncing Hishamuddin as a “problem judge” for his decision on the Malik Hussein case.

It is sober reminder that Malaysia has still a long way to go before the enlightened view of Justice Hishamuddin can find acceptance as mainstream establishment opinion.

Twenty years after the darks days of Operation Lalang, one thing is clear and indisputable — not a single one of the 106 Ops Lalang detainees should have been detained under the infamous and draconian detention-without trial law, and Ops Lalang represented the most glaring example of the blatant and flagrant example of the misuse and abuse of the ISA for political purposes completely unrelated to any acceptable notion or consideration of national security.

For this reason, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in keeping with his pledge when he acceded to the highest office of the land to be reformist and modern-day Justice Pao to uphold justice, should redeem the two-decade old injustice and tender a public apology to the 106 victims of Operation Lalang ISA dragnet as not a single one should have been persecuted with the ISA 20 years ago. The ISA should also be repealed and removed from the statute books.

(Speech at the public forum “Operation Lalang — 20 Years Today” held in Pay Fong Chinese Independent Secondary School Hall, Malacca on Saturday, 27th October 2007 at 8 pm)

  1. #1 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 1:26 pm

    YB, the people, the malaysian public, would like to know how Tun M now feels about the use of the ISA. Tun was the greatest offender, having manipulated the ISA to suit his political ends…and ruthlessly too.

    I find it impossible to stomach that this same Tun has so much crocodile tears to shed and shows such hypocrisy with a straight face as if he is a true people’s champion in railing against AAB. Most people suspect Tun M has his persoanl axes to grind and the reasons are mostly economic and political; the cloak aND smokescreen most suited for the purpose is the pretext of championing the people’s interests.

    In a nutshell, Tun M has always been Machiavellian and a mischievously devious political operator.

    There can be no remorse without a public apology. So if Tun wants a conscience that is spick before His Creator, he should repent and tell the people he has so offended so; that’s the surest thing God will hear and quite certain to elicit the peole’s forgiveness. Anything else would be a sham a’la Mahathir. My take is, he’s always been like that and he always will be.

  2. #2 by k1980 on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 1:59 pm

    Have you ever heard of Pharoahs apologizing for their misdeeds?

  3. #3 by Justicewanted on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 3:00 pm

    Apology only???

    What about those years of suffering??????

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 3:22 pm

    If our PM had to apologise for this lalang thingy, he then has to apologise for a long list of things – to long to be even listed here. He prefers to ignore the various issues and to continue happily with his interrupted honeymoon.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 3:51 pm

    Why ask present premier Ahmad Badawi to apologise for the misuse and abuse of the ISA by Dr Mahathir any more than praise Badawi for Mahathir’s achievements if any? Although it is hard even now to think about what Mahathir should be praised for, he alone should be responsible for his actions and apologise to the 106 Ops Lalang ISA detainees whilst he is still alive today to do so. And then again he would also have to apologise to the nation for many other things he has done during his time but will he, so why waste time?

  6. #6 by Jamesy on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 4:34 pm

    I think someone should initiate laws to prosesute Mahathir for his misdeed, unlawful and unconstitutional supression of dissent under his iron fist rule and mismanagement of the nation’s adminstration and economy that breeds unaccounted corruption in high places of governance and the judiciary. What we are experiencing today is the after-effect of post-Mahathir era which we can’t seems to dispel of its curse.

    An apology is not sufficient, an eye for an eye is.

  7. #7 by joehancl on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 5:13 pm

    I believe mahathir will live long to see all the sh’t he made ooze out of malaysia.

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 5:40 pm

    They will never prosecute him, or make him acount because many in power and the constitutencies they represent feel indebted to him. He just has to worry about civil society and NGOs and even these groups have been confused by him when he took cudgels against the present premier and some of the big wigs (when they marginalise or frustrate his pet projects) and took the sides of bloggers for freedom of expression. Being powerless against the power structure, these groups feel that TDM is the most effective opposition that the government fears. So they tend to overlook and gloss over his past excesses. The man has manipulated everybody not to go after him.

  9. #9 by Old.observer on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 5:44 pm

    After reading the full text of judgement of the High Court Judge Datuk Hishamudin’s decision to award $2.5M to Abdul Malek Hussin, I am completely aghast at what took place over that 57 days from 25 Sep 1988 to 21 Nov 1988.

    If you haven’t read it before, I strongly urge you to read the full text of judgement here – http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/10/19/nation/20071019184304&sec=nation

    There is no doubt in my mind that the conduct of the Police then was inhuman, cruel and despicable. There is simply no strong enough words to describe the actions of the corrupt Police officers involved, as well as the minds of the masters behind them. There is also no doubt in my mind that the arrest is politically motivated, and is in no way connected to Internal Security of the nation. It is simply terrible and disgusting that the Police force could perpetrate such disgusting and inhumane acts, when they are supposed to be assisting in upholding the law.

    Furthermore, the decision should have a much greater implications on all the other ISA detainees around the same period at the least.

    It is timely that the YB raises the implications of the Abdul Malek case on the other 105 Ops Lalang ISA detainees. Whilst I simply don’t know what happens to the other 105 detainees (since I was not there), the balance of probabilities indicate that such ISA detainees around the same time were probably detained for the same/similar reasons as Abdul Malek, which is politically motivated rather than for true ISA reasons. This reflects very, very badly on Dr M, UMNO and BN in my opinion.

    I am very glad that someone like the High Court Judge Datuk Hishamudin sat and presided over Abdul Malek’s case, and wrote that full text of judgement for a layperson like me to read the case. It gave me a very clear and good idea on what happened during that terrible 57 days that Abdul Malek must have endured. Such an event must never be allowed to happen again. Our PM must give his commitment that such an event must never be allowed to happen again. Otherwise, we are no better than barbarians, let alone trying to achieve developed nation status by 2020 …

    YB, thank-you for highlighting this case here.

    Old Observer.

  10. #10 by Old.observer on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 5:54 pm

    “On Thursday, the Barisan Nasional MP for Jerai, Datuk Badruddin Amiruldin openly attacked Justice Hishamudin from the floor of Parliament during his speech on the 2008 Budget, denouncing Hishamuddin as a “problem judge” for his decision on the Malik Hussein case” – YB LKS


    If he has read the full text of judgement, it should be obvious that it is not HCJ Hishamudin who is the “problem judge”, but Badruddin himself who is the “problem Barisan Nasional MP”!

    Whilst I am glad that our country is not totally condemned yet since we still have Judges like HCJ Hishamudin, I am increasingly worried that such judges will one day become “endangered species”, and soon, “extinct”.

    The Royal Commission of Inquiry is sorely needed at these critical times. Even if by some miracle, the RCI is set up, I wonder if this is only one small step in a very long journey to try to clean up the judiciary …

    Old Observer

  11. #11 by Old.observer on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 6:01 pm

    In Abdul Malek’s case, personally, I thought it was simply incredible and excellent that so many details were documented in the full text of judgement.

    Yet, it would seem almost impossible to implicate Dr M for the cruel and inhumane treatment. Why? Well, to me, I wonder if it is even possible to prove in the court of law that Tan Sri Rahim Noor acted per Mahathir’s instructions. Was the inhumane treatment Mahathir’s idea, or Tan Sri Rahim Noor’s flash of inspiration, or simply the works of his subordinates? I believe Mahathir simply does not need to spell out to his layers of subordinates what needs to be done then, and this means any attempt to prosecute him in the court of law based on Ops Lalang which happened 20 years ago is virtually an impossible event in my limited and layperson opinion.

    Old Observer.

  12. #12 by Old.observer on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 6:05 pm

    The Abdul Malek’s case is strongly recommended reading for those who don’t believe a full text of judgement is not important.

    I can appreciate why judges who don’t write a full text of judgements, let alone having missed 30, should be sacked.

    I am not a lawyer, nor have a legal background, but without the full text of judgement (as per Abdul Malek’s case), how can justice be seen to have been done from a layperson perspective such as myself?

    CJ Fairuz should be sacked immediately for allowing so many unwritten judgements to happen.

    Old Observer.

  13. #13 by Chong Zhemin on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 8:19 pm

    Uncle Kit,

    I feel that your title “Apology from PM Abdullah to 106 Ops Lalang ISA detainees” is a bit misleading.

    I thought the PM had apologized to the ISA detainees when I first read the title….

  14. #14 by rojak on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 8:37 pm

    AAB maybe. But M, fat chance of even an empty apology from this self righteous Machiavellian.

    Maybe, just maybe when he is in his deathbed you may get an apology but unlikely it will be out of remorse but out of fear that he has to answer to his Creator.

  15. #15 by undergrad2 on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 8:46 pm

    I remember when Mahathir and Musa Hitam took over the reins of leadership, they did so on the platform of greater freedom and even a serious hint at doing away with the Internal Security Act altogether; and in response to the support given to them they released some ISA detainees. Once they occupied the seats of power both just as quickly realised that the ISA could be useful one day to deal with challenges to their power. What do they say about absolute power if not it corrupts absolutely?

    That day came in the midst of challeges to their power both from within their ranks and out in 1987.

    Mahathir never did have the kind of respect for lawyers, the country’s courts and judges that a leader in his position should have. It is not that he failed to grasp the importance of the separation of powers to a democractic system of government. It is because he realised how important it is, that he then set himself to dismantle the barriers between the Executive and the Judiciary. The damage he then did is still obvious to this day. In fact it had acquired a momentum of its own and although he no longer occupy the seat of power, the country is still reeling from the damage done by him as head of the Executive branch ( a Prime Minister the U.S. Department of State has seen it fit to label the ‘tin-pot dictator’).

    Under similar circumstances should Malaysians expect Abdullah Badawi to break away from tradition. Is not history destined to repeat itself??

  16. #16 by greatstuff on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 10:43 pm

    Dr M was indeed a Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde type of fellow who did more harm than good for true intellectual progress for the nation via subversion of the judiciary and all the other egoistic social engineering programmes. He was a cunning fox, and it is good to see that, as the old saying goes, “every dog has it’s day” . AAB is a genuinely decent and sincere fellow who has an enormous and nearly impossible task ahead to begin to undo the effects of Malaysia’s regression during his predecesor’s 22 year iron fisted rule. May the introduction of Islam Hadari, and the salutory apology for those detained under Ops Lallang be the start of the path towards true reformation and heal the divisive wounds that have afflicted the nation. Thank you AAB, keep up the good intentions, and may you bear the fruits of success!

  17. #17 by alphoti on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 10:46 pm

    Firstly, the title is indeed misleading. I also thought that PM has apologised! Apology is rare for M’sia government.

    Secondly, I do not agree that AAB should apologise. Dr M should & before too late for him. AAB should REPEAL THE ACT.

  18. #18 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 11:17 pm

    It’s always been like that worldwide – political bastards,dictators and their ilk will always seek camouflage under draconian laws to perpetrate their evil designs.

    The ISA is no different. If Pak Lah has any sense left in him, he should repeal the ISA in one fell stroke and hope the gods will smile on him in the next GE.

    Hello, Pak Lah, why not spring a small surprise, eh? After all, ISA was never your baby and shoudl not be resting in yr lap!

  19. #19 by Angry_Malaysian on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 11:25 pm

    …Oh dear old man….what has he done to Malaysia??? Even he admitted that he had failed during his final days in office…….

  20. #20 by undergrad2 on Sunday, 28 October 2007 - 11:54 pm

    “After all, ISA was never your (Abdullah’s) baby and shoudl not be resting in yr lap!” ENDANGERED HORNBILL

    It does not have to be his baby to rest in his lap.

  21. #21 by sotong on Monday, 29 October 2007 - 8:45 am

    Past experience had shown loyalty is first to the political party….if they want to keep a job with good salary, status, power and influence.

    These people with long and strong involvement in their political party will protect the interest of their party at all costs at the great expense of the country.

  22. #22 by cheeyong on Monday, 29 October 2007 - 9:28 am

    This “badut”ruddin is making me sick to the core. I dont know what kind of contributions he is giving except making nonsensical speeches like attacking a judge which upheld the law as its supposed to be.

  23. #23 by shaolin on Monday, 29 October 2007 - 10:33 am

    Abdullah Badawi should not apologise for 106 Ops Lalang instead
    Dr. M MUST apologise for Sepang Formula 1 Racing Cct!!

    Because of his ‘Great’ idea, all the young road speedsters and
    racers race on all the roads throughout Malaysia, even at
    kampung roads!! Who educated these bunch of road racers??
    Dr. M is the Culprit!!

    The youngsters now spend more money on bikes and cars,
    modifying them to race at top speed!! The Road Race Champions
    get GIRLs for the Top few Prizes. They adopted the Bad Culture!!

    When these youngsters run out of money, they start to do all
    the evil things like robbing, raping, street fights ,drugs consuming
    and trafficking and so on and on… Again Who created all these
    evil behaviours and characters??? Dr. M is the answer!!!

    Dr. M should by all means apologise to All Malaysians now and He
    must stand up and speak up to the press to stop all the roots of
    evil characters!!!

    Sending man to the SPACE as a Passenger means NOTHING when we have so much of rotten eggs still in Malaysia!!

    Do Not just thinking of ‘Air Muka’ of 1 Race! Be pragmatic to face
    the WORLD with courage and Intelligence, Not just by MAGIC play!!!

  24. #24 by Jimm on Monday, 29 October 2007 - 10:50 am

    The Done Master will have to live to witnessed his doings.

  25. #25 by wizzerd on Monday, 29 October 2007 - 11:04 am

    This “badut”ruddin is making me sick to the core. I dont know what kind of contributions he is giving except making nonsensical speeches like attacking a judge which upheld the law as its supposed to be.

    Whenever a decision went against their favour, they will castigate everyone. What’s new??

  26. #26 by Counterpoint on Monday, 29 October 2007 - 11:23 am

    I am all for a Kuala Lumpur Mahathir’s Crimes Commission in the same vein as the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission to try Mahathir for his crimes of gross abuses of power , gross violations of human rights and corruption.

    ISA detainees shall be invited to talk in this tribunal and they will be allowed to be as graphic as possible when describing the torture they had endured during their unlawful detention. The objective of this tribunal shall be to shame him when the law wouldn’t want to touch him.

  27. #27 by AhPek on Friday, 2 November 2007 - 9:53 pm

    To be fair OPS Lalang is not the doing of AAB and he should not be expected to apologise even though he enjoys all the goodies pass down to him (ISA,Sedition Act,Official Secrets Act etc etc).
    The apology must come from that mamak ‘Father of Corruption And Chief Engineer in the DEstruction of Malaysia.’.
    In fact I should think a people’s court to try him for all the excesses perpetrated in his 22 years stewardship!!

  28. #28 by AhPek on Friday, 2 November 2007 - 9:54 pm

    Should read ‘……….should think a people’s court be formed to try him…………..’.

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