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He owes the nation an apology

  • On the 30th anniversary of Operasi Lalang, opposition leaders routinely issued statements to commemorate this day. But, there was no mention of Mahathir this year.

By POOK AH LEK
Sin Chew Daily

For the then 451 Sin Chew Daily employees, October 27, 1987 was the most unforgettable day in their lives.

On that day, I reported to work as usual at eight in the morning, checking first Bernama newsfeed, as I always did, for any last-minute notice.

There was one: an emergency press conference at nine by then IGP Hanif Omar.

I was the assistant reporting chief at that time, and seeing that there wasn't enough time to send a reporter there, I rushed to Bukit Aman myself.

Hanif was sitting on the stage, the Special Branch director and later-IGP Rahim Noor by his side.

Hanif picked up a list, and read aloud the names of politicians, Chinese educationists and NGO leaders detained under the ISA.

Yes, 106 of them in all. Since the start of Operasi Lalang, a total of 106 individuals had been arrested, and Hanif did not rule out the possibility of more arrests.

Back at the office at ten, I was greeted by gloomy faces as I stepped inside my department. A phone call had just been received from the home ministry that Sin Chew's publishing permit had been suspended with immediate effect, and that the official letter would reach the office in one hour's time.

No publication from October 28. Sure enough there was no need for me to prepare the news article for Hanif's press conference.

I discovered later that we were not alone, as The Star and Watan were also suspended concurrently.

To keep himself in power, then PM cum Umno president Dr Mahathir started his iron-fisted rule by getting rid of dissidents and creating an illusion that the Malays were under serous threat.

He encouraged and condoned hateful remarks in tensing up racial relations, a move that would give him a good opportunity to make mass arrests.

Then education minister Anwar Ibrahim sent a hundred Malay administrators to assume senior posts at Chinese primary schools. Despite strong opposition from the Chinese community, Anwar remained recalcitrant. A protest rally was staged by political parties and Chinese educationists at Thean Hou Temple,

Protest leaders were later picked up by the police one after another, and the extensive coverage of the event by Sin Chew Daily was seen by Mahathir as an act of fanning racial sentiments.

Prior to this, Sin Chew Daily had been taken over by UMBC (now RHB) due to financial difficulty. Although we didn't get our monthly pay on time, the operation could still be sustained.

But with the suspension order, these 451 employees along with their families and thousands of news agents and sellers, had to struggle to make ends meet.

I still remember we got our full pay in October, down to three quarters in November, half in December and a quarter in the following January. No income for us from February onward.

Most of us had to look for alternative jobs to feed ourselves and settle house and car mortgages while waiting for the suspension order to be lifted.

Mahathir was the father of government corruption and abuse of power. He destroyed the country's judiciary and democracy, clamped down on press freedom and encouraged nepotism.

He has yet to offer an apology for all these until this day.

Sadly, opposition leaders who were thrown into the jail by him back then have chosen to forget his iniquities, teaming up with him instead to boost the opposition camp with only one thing in mind: to capture Putrajaya.

On the 30th anniversary of Operasi Lalang, opposition leaders routinely issued statements to commemorate this day, but there was no mention of Mahathir this year.

 

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