Archive for October 28th, 2007

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. Read the rest of this entry »