Ops Lalang onslaught on human rights, press freedom, independent judiciary – no signs of better safeguards under Abdullah

The 1987 Operation Lalang mass Internal Security Act (ISA) dragnet of 106 detainees representing a wide spectrum of dissent, including MPs, civil rights leaders, Chinese educationists and social activists, was not only a black day for human rights in Malaysia, but set the scene for a triple onslaught on the fundamental basis of a democratic Malaysia — human rights, press freedom and an independent judiciary.

What stemmed from a 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 turned into the most relentless assault on democracy in Malaysia in the nation’s 50-year history — and the country is still paying the consequences of that assault.

And what is worse, there are no signs that the triple targets of the 1987 Ops Lalang onslaught, viz human rights, press freedom and an independent judiciary, are better safeguarded two decades later on the fourth anniversary of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s premiership.

I am very disappointed that the Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail had decided to appeal against the High Court decision awarding Abdul Malek Hussin RM2.5 million in damages for having been unlawfully arrested, detained and beaten up while in police custody under the ISA in 1998.

In Parliament last week, an Umno MP even attacked High Court judge Datuk Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus for being a “problem judge” for his judgement and RM2.5 million award for Malek.

The Hishammuddin judgment had been long in coming, as human rights abuses in the form of physical violence and other forms of torture had been common treatment meted out to ISA as well as non-ISA detainees — which must be condemned in no uncertain terms and stopped forthwith.

The Internal Security Act in allowing indefinite detention without trial is itself a gross violation of human rights and should be repealed without delay — as there are adequate laws to deal with national security and law and order in the country.

I had called on the Attorney-General to take the policy decision not to appeal against the Hishamuddin judgment to send a clear message that the era of human rights has arrived in Malaysia and that the government will not countenance any violation of human rights by public servants.

The appeal by the Attorney-General challenging the RM2.5 million award by Hishamuddin for Malek is an unmistakable signal that the Malaysian government remains rooted in the old mind-set where human rights occupy a very low place in the national order of priorities.

The recent atrocious rating of Malaysia in the Freedom Without Borders (RSF) 2007 press freedom index, plunging 32 spots as compared to last year to the nation-worst ranking of 124th placing in the RSF annual worldwide press freedom ranking since it was started in 2020 should drive home the sad point that press freedom in Malaysia have not been able to get out of the manacles which shackled it during Operation Lalang, which saw the closure of four newspapers.

The saddest story, however, is the failure in past four years of the Abdullah premiership to restore the doctrine of separation of powers which was subverted by Operation Lalang with the judiciary subordinated as a subservient organ of the Executive.

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 signaled the worst devastation of the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

For the past two decades, the country has been reeling from one judiciary crisis to another, 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 and whether Malaysia will have an UMNO Chief Justice for the first time in 50 years.

Tonight, we are gathered here to remember the “black day” for democracy in Malaysia with its triple assault on human rights, press freedom and an independent judiciary, must take cognizance that the situation today on all these three fundamentals of a democratic nation are even worse today than before Ops Lalang 20 years ago.

Malaysian citizens must dare to exercise their constitutional and political rights particularly in the next general election to hold the present government to account for its failures in the past four years to “walk the talk” to restore to Malaysians the three democratic fundamentals of human rights, press freedom and the independence of the judiciary which succumbed to Executive assaults during Operation Lalang.

(Speech at a public forum “Remembering Operation Lalang (1987-2007)” held at KL-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Kuala Lumpur on 31st October 2007 at 8 pm)

  1. #1 by izrafeil on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 4:27 pm

    antara banyak2 (not ramai2) BN politicans, berapa ramai yg pernah kena kekejaman ISA? NIL, itu sebab mereke tak pernah merasai kekerasan buatan ISA ini.

  2. #2 by Godfather on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 5:13 pm

    Better safeguards under the Sleepy Head ? You gotta be kidding me. The only better safeguards he will implement are those which protect their cheating ways.

    “We are not in the business of cheating the people.” AAB, 2005

    This slogan qualifies for Ripley’s “Believe It or Not”.

  3. #3 by greatstuff on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 6:23 pm

    A-G Tan Sri Gani Patail’s appeal against the Malek award is indeed sad and distressing to those who wish to see the old ways of repression repealed- these old-school fellows, who learned how to abuse their power and authority in the most un-democratic of ways are worse than the Colonial Era Imperialists! It would be a joy to see the day when these cronies get the justice they dererve and for the beginning of a new chapter of progress in Malaysian democracy.

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 7:49 pm

    Beware! History tends to repeat itself. OL II may be carried out to commemorate OL I held 20 years ago.

  5. #5 by k1980 on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 8:45 pm

    Can some one who happened to be in Kg Karuppiah yesterday please confirm this miraculous event?
    Yesterday, Samy Vellu visited Kampung Karuppiah after the demolition had taken place. According to vernacular press reports, he was pelted with sticks and stones by angry residents….

  6. #6 by Traveller on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 9:41 pm

    Does the Chinese people ever follow what has happened and what is going on in the country? Or, are the educated ones only understand the threats posed by UMNO while others just buried their heads in the sand? I asked this because in every elections after Operation Lallang, the BN still garnered overwhelming support from the Chinese. One would think that the Chinese would have put in protest vote to show their displeasure. But no, they still carry on voting BN as usual. I really think that if the Chinese people, as represented by MCA and Gerakan, have not been so subservient since the 70’s, we would not be in this mess where our constitutional rights are gradually eroded. Tunku would be shaking his head in disbelief if he were to see how we have allowed out rights to be traded away.

  7. #7 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 10:15 pm

    Pak Lah is very much a Lalang himself. He bends where the winds blow. Such a PM simply has no backbone. Others know this at first hand. I know from what I read and the wishy-washy way he has backtracked on all his 2004 election pledges and other promises of a clean government with a conscience.

    He is so very pathetic. Lalang always are; they put on a brave face for a very short while and smile at the world. Soon they are trampled underfoot or else they bend and bow at whim where the winds blow.

  8. #8 by sotong on Friday, 2 November 2007 - 7:26 am

    The country biggest mistake is not capitalising on her resourceful and energetic individuals with no policial involvement………hundreds of thousands, if not millions, were made to find opportunity elsewhere to fully utilise their skills, knowledge and experience.

    The narrow, short term, divisive, damaging and dangerous politics had done enormous damage to the country.

  9. #9 by pkrisnin on Friday, 2 November 2007 - 9:47 am

    This is Dr.M true legacy to Malaysia. What ever good he might have done has been tarnish by his act for OPS Lalang

  10. #10 by Jimm on Friday, 2 November 2007 - 10:50 am

    The Malay Rulers MUST take ownership of their lands and rakyat livinghood.
    The national scandals have reached their peak and out of control.
    As we all know, most of these scandals also involving certain parties related to the Royal families which have to be ‘covered up’ from the eyes of the rakyat.
    What went wrong here are those ‘brainchild’ have reinvented their wealth opportunity whilst assisting the royal in their ‘projects’, they created another sub channel to doubled up their actions.
    Things went from bad to worse when more ‘team members’ are involved especially from important government agencies.
    And now, almost all agencies are involved ‘directly or indirectly’ into scandals or scams.

  11. #11 by alaneth on Friday, 2 November 2007 - 10:43 pm

    The Indonesian and Bruneian Chinese has just stood to watch their rights slowly and gradually being taken away. And they did nothing, but migrate.

    Is that an option to us?

  12. #12 by AhPek on Friday, 2 November 2007 - 11:40 pm

    ‘Is that an option to us?’. alaneth.
    Your question has an implied meaning and that is that the Chinese should stand up for their rights which might mean having to go out into the streets to protest and stand a good chance of getting battered.Oh no you can’t find this type of chinese outside of China. They just don’t exist.
    They don’t even exist in Oz land.In the not so distant past in Sydney a party was thrown to bid farewell to the departing primier of new south wales and a young and fast rising star in the opposition camp (who was tipped to be a future state premier) was also there.In the course of the evening he made a remark to the departing premier that he could now send his mail-order bride who is a Penang girl home.This was of course a racial slur and was inexcusable resulting in a big hue and cry from white australians that the up and coming politician has to resign from a top position in his party.The big outcry did not come from the chinese community.And this is in Australia.
    So ask yourself what can you expect except to migrate?And we have 26% population being of chinese ethnicity and probably close to 50% non Malays.
    On the other hand take a look at black Americans. In the cotton fields of America in the 17th or 18th century, it is the god damn right of whites to slap and kick them if they so wish, even rape their wives.Look at Bush cabinet today. The black representation in America’s power structure far exceeds their percentage in the population statistics.Blacks make up 12.8%.
    Why? The simple reason is they are prepared to stand up for their rights.
    All the talk in the blogs are just venting out frustration. When it comes to what it takes to change the status quo everybody shies away preferring to mind their own business.
    This is what I think will eventually happen.The rot will keep on progressing until such a day arrives when there will be a clash between the have-Malays and the have-not-Malays.

  13. #13 by Traveller on Sunday, 4 November 2007 - 4:10 pm

    I blame MCA and Gerakan for the Chinese problem today because they gave in meakly to all the consitutional amendments. They traded the trusts of the Chinese for their own personal gains. With datukship, etc., they forgot who they represented. And today they continue to fool the Chinese who continue to vote for them.
    I am sick of hearing Ong Ka Ting telling the Chinese to have the “ke ku nai lao” attitude. That may be relevant for our grandparents when they first arrived from China. Is he saying Chinese should bear some hardships forever and not complain in return for living in Malaysia in peace?

  14. #14 by negaraku123 on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 - 4:19 am

    its time to stand up and call for a true democracy on november 10th in dataran merdeka. Speak up or be silent forever.

You must be logged in to post a comment.