Home  >  Opinion

Ops Lalang: A retrospect on its 30th anniversary

  • While Mahathir could escape legal pursuits over his role in Ops Lalang, he could not be spared from the moral transgression of smothering democracy and human rights.

By TAY TIAN YAN
Sin Chew Daily

Darkness hang over me on this day thirty years ago, a day that could have been the darkest day in the country's history.

On October 27, 1987, the Mahathir-led administration detained 106 individuals under the Internal Security Act in the infamous "Operation Lalang", including politicians, Chinese educationists and NGO leaders.

They were detained for 60 days to one and a half years.

The following day, three local newspapers -- Sin Chew Daily, The Star and Watan -- had their publication permits suspended.

I was a young reporter running mainly political news and commentaries back then, and it was the most challenging time in my journalistic career.

In that year, Mahathir was challenged by Tengku Razaleigh and Umno was split into Team A and Team B.

To win the support of the grassroots, Team A under Mahathir fanned racial sentiments and championed Malay nationalism in the party's meetings.

I was covering this kind of news almost every single day, blasted by extremist and hateful remarks. As one of a handful of Chinese journalists covering the events, I found myself at times becoming targets of their racist slurs.

At a Team A assembly at PWTC, my colleague and I were pelted at with stones. The situation almost went out of control until plainclothes policemen arrived and shielded us out of the hall.

If anyone feels that racism is bad today, he or she must have not experienced what we experienced those years.

The infighting between the two rival factions came to a conclusion after the April party elections in which Mahathir won by a slim majority of 43 votes.

But, the damage had been done, and the frustration in the Malay society towards Mahathir put him in a precarious position.

In August that year, the education ministry under Anwar Ibrahim of Team A sent some 100 Malay teachers unfamiliar with the Chinese language to become headmasters, assistant headmasters, administrative chiefs and disciplinary chiefs of Chinese primary schools.

MCA's objection fell into deaf ears, and Anwar remained recalcitrant despite strong opposition from the local Chinese community and associations.

Chinese organizations and political parties including MCA and DAP protested at Thean Hou Temple in October.

An issue that should have been one about Umno and the Malay society suddenly took an ugly turn to become one between the Malay and Chinese communities.

To put things in order, Mahathir made arrests and shut down newspaper companies under ISA. First, it was shock and panic before dissident voices were hushed after the clampdown.

Mahathir finally took control of the whole situation, defused the crisis and consolidated his power, while Anwar's successor status was reaffirmed.

From Umno infighting to the opposition from Chinese educationists, culminating in the heinous Ops Lalang, all these couldn't have been mere coincidence, but were part and parcel of a meticulous design seamlessly put into place by the master power strategist Mahathir.

The 106 detainees, thousands of newspaper company employees and their families, along with millions of Malaysians who still hoped for democracy in this country, were sacrificed in the power play, as Chinese education became a tool exploited by politicians on the sidelines of Umno's infighting.

Three decades on, detainer Mahathir and his detainee Lim Kit Siang are today creators of a new relationship.

It doesn't bother me too much having seen the ups and downs in politics, changing of the guard at the helm and alliances out of own interests...

Until this very day when DAP remembers Ops Lalang on its 30th anniversary!

In a statement, Lim Kit Siang hits out specifically at Najib, as if he has forgotten the real wicked hand behind all this: Mahathir.

While Mahathir could escape legal pursuits over his role in Ops Lalang, he could not be spared from the moral transgression of smothering democracy and human rights.

Tie-ups motivated by political interests could turn foes into friends or even lovers, all for the pursuit of more power. But deep inside the hearts of the rakyat, there the faint memories of yesteryear that could be reawakened, and we refuse to be continually fooled by politicians.

 

Copyright © 2017 MCIL Multimedia Sdn Bhd (515740-D).
All rights reserved. Contact us : [email protected]