Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Perak DAP Headquarters on Saturday, 4th April 2009 at 12.30 pm:
Hamid Albar and Chor Chee Heung should resign as Home Minister and Deputy Home Minister respectively for the 11-day suspension of Harakah and Suara Keadilan which had been repudiated by Najib among his first decisions as new Prime Minister
Among Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s first decisions as the new Prime Minister yesterday were the immediate removal of the three-month suspension of Harakah and Suara Keadilan, the release of 13 detainees from ISA detention including two Hindraf leaders V. Ganabatirau and R. Kengaharan and the conduct of a comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act.
While these three measures are welcome, they are clearly not adequate and do not indicate that far from signalling a new Dark Age, Najib is ushering in a new era of democracy, freedom, justice and accountability for the country.
This is one of the SMS I received after Najib’s first official address to the nation last night as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia:
“If anything, the release of more than a dozen of ISA detainees announced by the newly sworn-in sixth Prime Minister marked the return of Mahathirism as this was exactly what Mahathir did when he became the Prime Minister.”
The sender of this SMS is very right in more senses than one.
Firstly, Najib’s accession as the sixth Prime Minister is accompanied by a very open and public return of both Mahathir and Mahathirism to Umno. In fact, Mahathir is expected to rejoin Umno in the next 48 hours and to campaign actively in the Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau by-elections to demonstrate that he is a greater asset to Umno and Barisan Nasional than the Prime Minister of only two days ago, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Secondly, the release of 13 ISA detainees announced by Najib yesterday is reminiscent of the first days of the Mahathir premiership in 1981 which saw the release of 21 detainees under the ISA – including two DAP Members of Parliament, Chiang Heng Kai (Batu Gajah) and Chan Kok Kit (Sungei Besi), former Deputy Minister now Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad and the former chairman of Parti Rakyat Kassim Ahmad.
If the release of 13 ISA detainees is a manifestation of the return of Mahathirism, then it will not rule out a major crackdown by Najib on fundamental liberties and democratic freedoms as happened during the Mahathir premiership like the 1987 Operation Lalang mass arrests of 106 opposition leaders, NGOs activists and community leaders; the unprecedented assault on the independence and integrity of the judiciary from which the country has not recovered after more than two decades and the undermining of the autonomy of major national institutions.
Let me comment on Najib’s three announcements yesterday.
Firstly, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar and Datuk Chor Chee Heung should resign as Home Minister and Deputy Home Minister respectively for the 11-day suspension of Harakah and Suara Keadilan which had been repudiated by Najib among his first decisions as new Prime Minister.
Both Hamid and Chor had tried to publicly justify the three-month suspension of Harakah and Suara Keadilan, claiming that both publications were being “punished for inciting hatred against the government” and “threatened the stability of the multi-racial nation”.
Najib’s withdrawal of the suspension of the two publications have shown that these allegations were not only frivolous and baseless but constitute a gross abuse of power by both the Home Minister and his deputy.
Secondly, on the 13 ISA release. While welcoming the release of the 13, we want the following:
Thirdly, on Najib’s announcement of a “comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act”.
This is not the first time that Malaysians have been promised a review of the ISA. In the past decade, one Cabinet member after another whether from the Home Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Department had sporadically talked about reforms to the ISA but none had seen any fruition.
Malaysians do not want another vague promise of “comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act” which would be forgotten a few months or years down the road when events are overtaken by another major crackdown using the ISA – a second Operation Lalang-like mass ISA detentions.
To demonstrate that he is sincere and serious about a “comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act”, I call on Najib to make a four-point commitment, viz:
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor