Operasi Lalang’s Anniversary

Posted: October 28, 2007 in Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Speech, human rights, Malaysia, Media and communication, Society

Yesterday evening Bede Hong, wrote a piece on Operasi Lalang on <“Malaysiakini”> as it marked the 20th anniversary of Ops Lalang in the country.The name Ops Lalang surely fits its purpose, as then the operation merely meant weeding out all the unwanted troublemakers that pose potential dissent to the views of the state. As the state never as you can see in our great black book of history ever took dissent lightly back then or even in the 21st century.The only big difference at this point of time is not everything can be swept under the carpet as it has been done so professionally by the state on such issues before the advent of new communication technologies.

For those who have no idea what I’m rambling about, you might wonder what’s this Ops Lalang. For media practitioner be it journalist, editors, writers .communication student or just about anyone who has interest of the media spectrum, Ops Lalang represent a day in the lives of many that rather not be remembered, for some it signaled the end of investigative journalism in the mainstream media and any form of dissent.

Ops Lalang was a police crack down on opposition leaders and social activist that was carried out on 27th October 1987 that saw the arrest of 106 persons under the Internal Security Act, an act dreaded by most as it leaves you with no options whatsoever( its like I don’t like your face, I’m gonna throw you in jail and you can’t say a thing about it!)
The ISA basically gives fully discretion to the Home Minister to throw the said person in jail if he or she feels that the detention was necessary to prevent from acting in a manner that is prejudicial to national security, maintenances of essential services or economic life in Malaysia. As most of the draconian laws in Malaysia, this laws leave much space to interpretation as the Minister sees fit. For ambiguity is like a second name to any draconian law that has been created as it leaves so much room for flexibility, now who said our laws were not creative enough.(ERR!!)

ISA is enacted under Article 149 of the Malaysian Constitution. Section 8(1) of the ISA provides that ‘(i)f the minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary …’ then s/he may issue an order for his/her detentionAlthough under section 8(1) of the act restricts such power to a period not exceeding 2 years but the illusion of this section can be carefully noted through section 8(7) where the duration of detention can be extended for longer periods that do not have to abide by the section 8(1) again thus they could extend it for a period of 5, 10-20 years as they saw fit. So what can you say? Absolutely nothing! So much for human rights eh? How foolish of us to think we were a democracy….

Ok enough about the background of ISA law, let’s refresh our memories to the events that happened during the crackdown. As said earlier 106 persons were arrested but that wasn’t the end of the crackdown, the state also resorted to shutting down two dailies by revoking their licenses (The Star/Sin Chew Jit Poh), two weeklies also suffered the same backlash( Sunday Star/Watan)

So why were this people arrested? How did they threaten national security or maintenance of essential service or economic life?

According to the White Paper explaining the arrests, various groups who had played up “sensitive issues” and thus created “racial tension” in the country had exploited the government’s liberal and tolerant attitude”.-<“Linken Lim”>or Rojak and Cocktail

As most of the state vs any sort of dissent it was about the creation of racial sentiments which forced the POOR state to act in that manner as to make sure nothing bad happen as the outcome of all this people’s bad judgment. ( Yeah rite!) It basically rooted around the issue of the Education Ministry’s appointment of senior assistants and principals to vernacular Chinese schools that lead to a protest(as those appointed were not Chinese/Mandarin-educated)

The Who’s Who in Malaysia who were arrested;
DAP Secretary General Lim Kit Siang (fellow blogger)

Aliran President Chandra Muzaffar

Publicity Chief of the Civil Rights Committee Kua Kia Soong

WAO member Irene Xavier

and many more….

Most were released unconditionally but 40 of the original number were given the ISA honeymoon of 2 years (like Karpal Singh, Lim Kit Siang)….read more at <“Malaysiakini”> or Linken Lim.

Years have passed and yet this draconian act still lingers on the haunt the bravest of us all as it leaves one with no options at all whether you are guilty or innocent under this law it doesn’t really matter for once it is decided you are guilty in the eyes of the GREAT ONEs your time is up and off you get thrown into a jail cell. Will the ISA be another ones of those issues, in this case laws that we fight to abolish but still remains intact due to the state wished to play master of the universe with their know it all attitude at their whims and fancies, to alter the life of another without care… will it be another one that bites the dusts? Well we all hope NOT….For it has been a struggle, it has been almost 20 years….how long will this madness continue…..isn’t it obvious that it needs to be discarded?


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