Poignant 28th anniversary of Operasi Lalang

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The late P Patto

It is 2015 now and we see the demon of Operasi Lalang rearing its ugly head again with more arrests under an array of oppressive laws, notes Kasthuri Patto.

On the 28th anniversary of Operasi Lalang, it is more apparent now than ever that the BN risks too much letting go of the demon of Operasi Lalang with increasing numbers of arrests and charges under the Sedition Act, the Security Offence (Special Measures) Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Peaceful Assembly Act, the Prevention of Crime Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act. 

At 11.50pm on 27 October 1987,  my father P Patto was heartlessly taken away not only from his duties as an MP but as a husband and father when he was arrested under the cruel pitiless Operasi Lalang crackdown and charged under the Internal Security Act.

27 October will always remain a poignant date etched in the memories of the 119 detainees – and their families’, my mother’s and mine –  who had been wrongfully and unjustly imprisoned under the Internal Security Act in a major crackdown against critical voices against the draconian, oppressive and regressive policies of the then BN government.

Seventy of them were released within the first 60 days of investigation and the remaining 49 including seven MPs were served with two-year detention periods at the Kamunting Detention Centre in Taiping.

The Operasi Lalang detainees consisted of elected representatives, educationists, trade unionists, church workers, environmentalists, social activists, academicians, religious leaders, environmentalists,  and intellectuals, amongst others.

In an old and tattered book, The Real Reason : Operation Lalang ISA arrests 27 October 1987, one can read the REAL reasons, the fabrications and the manipulations by the then authorities to not just nab but to intimidate the men and women who weren’t afraid to voice out their thoughts against an autocratic and an imperious BN regime.

READ MORE:  33 years after Operation Lalang: Abolish laws that allow detention without trial

Those who were arrested had various baseless and unjustifiable charges against them, but the most glaring ones were against the DAP MPs which were the most heinous. The number of charges against the five DAP MPs totalled a whopping 34!

Among the charges allegedly concocted and falsified by the Minister of Home Affairs against the five DAP MPs:

  • Allegations of pitting the Chinese against the Malays in the deposit-taking co-operatives scandal.
  • Allegations that the government was only interested in one race and suppressed the liberty and rights of other races.
  • Allegations that the MCA and Gerakan had sold the fundamental rights of non-Malays to Umno.
  • Allegations that the government did not administer the country according to the constitution.
  • Allegations of the government closing down Chinese and Indian schools.
  • Allegations that a racial demonstration was held outside the entrance gate of University of Malaya and the mention of the UM Senate decision concerning the the use of Bahasa Malaysia in electives for the Tamil Studies department of the university.
  • Allegations quoting the case of Sim Kie Choon and Mokhtar Hashim to incite a clash between the Malays and the Chinese in Penang and Ipoh.

The last allegation, which was against my father Mr P Patto and Mr Karpal Singh, was a clear fabrication of lies and deception as no such function was held at the junction of Jalan Laksama and Jalan Foo Choo Choon on that day.

While, in essence, the Home Minister appeared adamant and resolute to lock up as many voices of conscience and resistance as he could in 1987, it was also ludicrous and nonsensical that despite thorough explanations by Mr P Patto denying the existence of such an event, he was still charged under it.

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It is 2015 and we see the demon of Operasi Lalang rearing its ugly head again with its increasing number of arrests and charges of members of parliament, state assembly members, lecturers, students and student leaders, a cartoonist, members of civil society and others under the brutal, draconian Sedition Act, Sosma, Pota, the PAA, Poca and the PPPA.

Channel News Asia featured an article entitled ‘Malaysia’s human rights have been eroded under PM Najib’. An article like this does not raise eyebrows for the Malaysian public anymore. And the reason is obvious – fundamental human rights have not only been trampled on but it is ensured that these rights are culled even before they stem.

Karma as we know it creeps up when we least expect it. We have Dr Mahathir, who was prime minister of Malaysia – and home minister from 17 March 1986 till 10 January 1999 – and who admitted responsibility to his iron-fisted abuse of the already oppressive ISA, which saw thuggish arrests of 119 voices of dissidence against the government.

Mahathir and his cabinet are responsible for the prostitution of democracy and human rights in Malaysia during his authoritarian rule for 22 years.

Mahathir may not be in power now but the seeds of abuse of power, oppression, brutal injustice and selective persecution continue to grow wild like the lalang he once attempted to weed out in 1987.

The decay, decomposition and rot in human rights in Malaysia is more prevalent now under the various acts like the Sedition Act, Sosma, Pota, the PAA, Poca and the PPPA, which are available to be violated at the BN’s whims and fancies.

READ MORE:  Stop using oppressive laws to suppress freedom of speech

On the 28th anniversary of Operasi Lalang, it is more apparent now than ever that the BN risks too much by letting go of the demon of Operasi Lalang with the increasing numbers of arrests and charges under the Sedition Act, Sosma and Pota, the PAA, Poca and PPPA.

Malaysia and Malaysians can only have a future if the BN can put aside and rise above the inter-party and intra-party tussle for power and uphold nation-building and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by abolishing acts that dissolve and suppress freedom and justice in this land.

I have no confidence in the prime minister not because of the RM2.6bn donation or the 1MDB scandal but because of his mammoth U-turn and back-tracking after making a promise to repeal the Sedition Act. Instead, he has reinforced it with his purulent disregard in upholding fundamental liberties and human rights for all Malaysians – even the voices of dissent.

Kasthuri Patto is the member of parliement for Batu Kawan.

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