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Will Mahathir be sacked from Umno or detained under the ISA?
(Sitiawan, Sunday) : The stakes are being raised in the rift and spat between the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, with the former accusing his successor of turning Malaysia into a police state at the “four-eyes only” meeting last Sunday, Abdullah’s rebuttal and breaking of his six-month “elegant silence” and the orchestrated chorus of attacks on Mahathir by the Cabinet Ministers and UMNO leaders in the past few days.
There are those who asked as to who should be supported - Abdullah or Mahathir? There is no need to support either. What is important is to support what is true, good and which is in the best interests of the people and nation.
If what Abdullah is doing is good for the country, then he should be praised and supported. Otherwise, he should be criticized and opposed.
The same applies to Mahathir, although he had been Prime Minister for 22 years and sounds very hypocritical in some of the things he is saying now. However, if what he says now is good for the country, he deserves a hearing and even support even if it goes against his record as Prime Minister.
For instance, if Mahathir is now taking up the cudgels against corruption and abuses of power under the Abdullah administration, he deserves to have his say and even support, without in any way detracting from his responsibility to fully account for the corruption, nepotism, cronyism, abuses of power and scandals which were so endemic under his premiership.
This is why when Mahathir said last Sunday that Malaysia had become a “police state”, Abdullah should have replied that this was Mahathir’s legacy after 22 years as Prime Minister – with the pointed reminder that two former Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn had as far back as in the eighties accused Mahathir of turning Malaysia into a “police state”, particularly with the Operation Lalang mass arrests under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the closure of newspapers.
Mahathir must be thanked for raising the “police state” question, for although the Abdullah administration has not been guilty of the worst excesses of the Mahathir premiership, the pertinent question is what had been done in the three years of Abdullah as Prime Minister to make such police excesses impossible to be repeated by dismantling the apparatus, system and laws of a police state which had remained intact and could be invoked any time in the near future.
It will not be long before questions which are now completely unthinkable will become increasingly possible and probable, for instance:
Many Malaysians will rejoice if Mahathir is detained under the ISA, as they will say Mahathir fully deserves it if he is detained under the ISA to have a taste of the “medicine” he administered to so many patriotic Malaysians who had been incarcerated without trial for no crime but having the courage of their conviction to express their dissent.
I had been a victim of Mahathir, detained for the second time under the ISA during the 1987 Operation Lalang. Guan Eng and I were the last two to be released among the 49 formally detained at the Kamunting Detention Centre – an indication of the venom and vindictiveness of Mahathir. Guan Eng was also imprisoned in the Kajang Prison for a year, stripped of his position as Member of Parliament after 12 years of elective office and lost his civil and political rights for five years.
However, should Mahathir one day be detained under the ISA, I will be the first to raise my voice of condemnation, loud and clear, for it is just wrong to use ISA to detain anyone, including Mahathir, without trial.
If Mahathir has committed any offence, arrest and charge him in court as he is entitled to open trial, just like everyone regardless of political party, affiliation or beliefs, a human right which must be accorded to every Malaysian.
The question is what is being done by Abdullah to dismantle the mindset, apparatus and system of a police state in Malaysia, like the repeal of draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Police Act and the Official Secrets Act, so that the excesses and abuses of power resulting in a full-fledged police state during the Mahathir premiership can never recur.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman