In keeping with his pledge to
be reformist and modern-day Justice Pao to uphold justice, Abdullah as Prime
Minister should redeem the two-decade old injustice and tender a public
apology to the 106 victims of Operation Lalang ISA dragnet
Speech at public forum "Operation Lalang-20
by Lim Kit Siang
At this hour on this day 20
years ago, Lim Guan Eng, who had been elected Member of Parliament for
Kota Melaka for just a year, had already been detained as the first of 106
detainees representing a wide spectrum of dissent, including MPs, civil
rights leaders, Chinese educationists and social activists in the
Operation Lalang mass arrests under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
By this hour 20 years ago, Karpal Singh and I had also been detained; when
together with other DAP MPs we went to the High Street Kuala Lumpur Police
Station over Guan Eng’s detention.
The 1987 Ops Lalang mass ISA detentions was not only a black day for human
rights in Malaysia, it also marked the most relentless assault on
democracy in Malaysia and we are still paying the consequences of that
assault – which stemmed from the fight for political survival of the then
Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad who was faced with the
greatest challenge to his power position from within UMNO.
One upshot of Mahathir’s battle for his political life 20 years ago was
the Operation Lalang and 106 ISA detainees and another was the subversion
of the doctrine of the separation of powers, with Parliament and the
judiciary subordinated as subservient organs of the Prime Minister.
The seeds for the 1988 judiciary crisis over the arbitrary and
unconstitutional sacking of Tun Saleh Abas as Lord President and Datuk
George Seah and the late Tan Sri Wan Suleman Pawanteh as Supreme Court
judges were sown at this period.
Even before the Operation Lalang, there were moves by Mahathir to
subjugate the judiciary and I had publicly spoken up against a proposal to
move a substantive motion in Parliament to censure the then High Court
judge, the late Justice Harun Hashim, as a lesson to all judges to toe the
Today, Malaysia is still paying a heavy price for the fateful decisions
taken 20 years ago to undermine the democratic fundamentals in the country
as represented by the doctrine of the separation of powers – with the
country reeling from one judiciary crisis to another in the past two
decades, the latest over the failure of judicial leadership of the Chief
Justice, Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, the Lingam Tape scandal,
Ahmad Fairuz preposterous application for a six-month extension as Chief
Justice from Nov. 1 and whether Malaysia will have an UMNO Chief Justice
for the first time in 50 years.
Although the doctrine of the separation of powers and the principle of the
independence of the judiciary had been subverted for nearly two decades,
the judicial landscape is not totally bleak and desolate as evidenced by
the courageous and path-breaking judgment by the Kuala Lumpur High Court a
week ago in awarding an ISA detainee, Abdul Malek Hussin RM2.5 million in
damages for having been unlawfully arrested, detained and beaten up while
in police custody in 1998.
This landmark decision was made by High Court judge Datuk Mohd Hishamudin
Mohd Yunus – and this Hishamudin is not that Hishammuddin of the “Malay
On Thursday, the Barisan Nasional MP for Jerai, Datuk Badruddin Amiruldin
openly attacked Justice Hishamudin from the floor of Parliament during his
speech on the 2008 Budget, denouncing Hishamuddin as a “problem judge” for
his decision on the Malik Hussein case.
It is sober reminder that Malaysia has still a long way to go before the
enlightened view of Justice Hishamuddin can find acceptance as mainstream
Twenty years after the darks days of Operation Lalang, one thing is clear
and indisputable – not a single one of the 106 Ops Lalang detainees should
have been detained under the infamous and draconian detention-without
trial law, and Ops Lalang represented the most glaring example of the
blatant and flagrant example of the misuse and abuse of the ISA for
political purposes completely unrelated to any acceptable notion or
consideration of national security.
For this reason, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in
keeping with his pledge when he acceded to the highest office of the land
to be reformist and modern-day Justice Pao to uphold justice, should
redeem the two-decade old injustice and tender a public apology to the 106
victims of Operation Lalang ISA dragnet as not a single one should have
been persecuted with the ISA 20 years ago. The ISA should also be repealed
and removed from the statute books.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman