Today is the 28th anniversary of the Operation Lalang dragnet of Oct. 27, 1987 which saw the mass arrest of 106 people under the detention-without-trial Internal Security Act, with 49 persons, including Members of Parliament and social activists, served with formal two-year detention orders and the closure of three major newspapers.
It is sad and tragic that today’s 28th anniversary for one of the darkest periods for democracy and human rights in the nation’s history coincides with a global report which is a damning indictment on widespread abuses of power against critics and dissenters by a Prime Minister who had come to power six years ago promising a new era for democracy and human rights in Malaysia, who even had the temerity to launch a global movement of moderates which now lay in ruins.
The New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s 145-page report “Creating a Culture of Fear: The Criminalisation of Peaceful Expression of Malaysia” documents not only Najib’s repeated breach of his promise to repeal repressive and draconian laws, but the institution of new regime of fear and terror where criticism has become a crime.
This regime of fear and terror have escalated in the country with the twin mega-scandals of RM50 billion 1MDF and RM2.6 billion “donation” in Najib’s personal banking accounts spiralling out of control, not only in the country but internationally, with half a dozen foreign countries opening separate investigations.
Freedom of expression and opinion, especially in criticism of the government-of-the-day is increasingly become a very prohibitive exercise of one’s fundamental rights in Malaysia, with a government which has no compunction to bend laws and institutions and violate democratic freedoms and human rights of Malaysians to impose a climate of fear and a culture of silence to perpetuate their hold on power.
This is why the assurance given by the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi that there will be no abuse of power in the prosecution and investigation of cases related to sabotage, espionage and actions detrimental to parliamentary democracy, in reply to my parliamentary question, cuts no ice and convinces no one.
Parliament had been assured three years ago when enacting Sections 124B to 124N of the Penal Code that these new offences related to “activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy” were meant to arm the nation against the threat of terrorists, and would not be used against critics and dissenters who have no relationship whatsoever with any form of terrorism.
These assurances are still fresh to the ears of Members of Parliament in 2012 as they were made only three years ago, but these laws are already being abused to deal not with terrorists, but critics and dissenters, including whistleblowers of the greatest financial scandals in the nation’s history – the RM50 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” in Najib’s personal banking accounts scandals.
It is not only a travesty of justice but the most “detrimental activity against parliamentary democracy” to invoke and abuse the draconian offences under Section 124 of the Penal Code to silence exposes of the great est financial scandal in the nation’s history – as those who want to expose the mega scandals are patriots while those who are trying to foil them are the real traitors of the country.
This is the time when men and women of principle, conviction and ideals, particularly in Cabinet and Parliament, should stand up and be counted for justice, freedom, good governance and the higher interests of the country.
But such men and women are nowhere to be found, particuarly among the Cabinet front-benches.
Yesterday, the Umno Youth leader and Youth and Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, asked all parties not to interfere in the probes into the twin scandals of 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” to guarantee the credibility of the investigations.
I just cannot understand how a Cabinet Minister like Khairy could claim that the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) is investigating the 1MDB scandal, when the MACC has stated very clearly in public that it is not investigating the 1MDB scandal.
In fact, it was only a few days ago that MACC in a statement stressed again that it was not investigating 1MDB as it was a police matter, expressing the hope that no parties would make any statement that MACC had cleared them on the issues relating to 1MDB.
The MACC statement on Thursday is most intriguing, stating that it never denied the authenticity of a flow diagram published by Malaysiakini on the money trail involving SRC International or that it had denied the authenticity of a draft charge sheet against the Prime Minister.
Was there a draft charge sheet in the Attorney-General’s Chamberrs against the Prime Minister related to corruption before Tan Sri Gani Patail was sacked as Attorney-General on July 27?