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  Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, 5th April 2008: 

As Shabery Cheek has admitted abuses of ISA detentions, will he raise in Cabinet on Wednesday the immediate and unconditional release of Hindraf Five and a Commission of Inquiry into the 1987 Operation Lalang of mass ISA detentions and closure of four newspapers to purge the country of the “yes-men culture”

The present UMNO Cabinet and leadership have admitted that in the past there had been gross abuses of the Internal Security Act (ISA) against dissent.

In a new series of attacks against former UMNO President and Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad by UMNO Ministers the new Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that during Mahathir’s leadership “many were detained under the ISA supposedly because they were a threat to national security when in actual fact they were a threat to his leadership…” in response to Mahathir’s charges that UMNO leaders have become “yes-men”.

Shabery Cheek was clearly referring to the Operation Lalang mass ISA detentions in 1987, where 106 people were arrested, representing parliamentarians, politicians, civil/human rights leaders and social/religious activists.

Although a few low-level UMNO, MCA and Gerakan political leaders were among the 106 persons detained in the initial crackdown of Operation Lalang in October 1987 – which included the closure of four newspapers - none of them were among the 40 who were formally served with two-year detention orders after the 60-day interrogative custody and dispatched to Kamunting Detention Centre – which included seven serving DAP MPs at the time, viz: Karpal Singh, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, Lim Guan Eng, Lau Dak Kee, the late P. Patto, the late V. David and myself.

Is Shabery Cheek prepared to represent the present Barisan Nasional Cabinet and leadership to admit that the entire 1987 Ops Lalang ISA crackdown, both against the 106 persons initially detained as well as the 40 persons who were formally detained after the 60-day custody, had been a gross abuse of power by Mahathir, his Cabinet and government; extend a formal government apology to the victims of Operation Lalang – not only the ISA detainees and their families and the closure of the four newspapers but also to the country for promoting a “yes-men culture” for some three decades – and establish a commission of inquiry into the 1987 Operation Lalang to ensure that such gross abuses of power could not recur in Malaysia in future.

However, the most immediate and pressing question is why the new Abdullah Cabinet is not prepared to break from the bad habits of the past and stop using draconian laws like the ISA to clamp down on dissent and promote a “yes-men culture” by unconditionally releasing newly-elected Selangor DAP State Assemblyman for Kota Alam Shah A. Manoharan and four other Hindraf leaders, P. Uthayakumar, V. Ganabatirau, R. Kenghadharan and T. Vasantha Kumar from ISA detention.

The ISA detention of the Hindraf Five is the latest blatant example of the abuse of the ISA to detain persons not because they are a threat to national security but a threat to MIC and Barisan Nasional leadership as they refused to be “yes men” – as happened repeatedly in the past and now admitted by the Information Minister.

Is Shabery Cheek prepared to get the support of other Ministers to raise in the Cabinet on Wednesday for the immediate and unconditional release of the Hindraf Five under the ISA as well as for a Commission of Inquiry into the 1987 Operation Lalang on the mass ISA detentions and the closure of four newspapers to purge the country of the “yes-men culture”?

* Lim Kit Siang, MP for Ipoh Timor & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman


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