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Media statement by Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, 9th February 2011: 

Mahathir rewriting history - let him name the Opposition leaders he had met and given assurance that they would not be arrested but subsequently overruled by police in Operation Lalang?

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is rewriting history when he blamed the police for the 1987 Operation Lalang mass Internal Security Act (ISA) arrests, claiming that he was furious over the mass crackdown.

In the new book, “Doctor M: Operation Malaysia – Conversations with Mahathir Mohamad” by Tom Plate, Mahathir said:

"Well, I would have handled it differently, except that the police wanted to do these things because they say it is necessary...

"I actually met all of the opposition members (beforehand) and assured them that they would not be arrested. And you know what the police did? They arrested them. My credibility is gone."

Mahathir is not only suffering from selective memory and faulty memory but is spinning untruths about his misdeeds in his 22 years as Prime Minister.

I never met Mahathir and he never gave me any assurance that I would not be arrested before the launch of Operation Lalang on Oct. 27, 1987, although a day earlier I had spoken in Parliament in the 1988 budget debate warning of escalation of racial tensions and calling on all political parties “to agree to a one-year moratorium where no racial, language, cultural or religious issues will be created or raised for every Malaysian to concentrate on the national priority of achieving economic recovery and growth”.

Let Mahathir name the Opposition leaders had had met and given assurance that they would not be arrested but subsequently overruled by the police in the Operation Lalang crackdown!

It is unworthy of Mahathir to “pass the buck” to the Police for the responsibility for the Operation Lalang crackdown, as he not only defended the initial 106 arrests by the police under Section 73 of the ISA, he exercised his powers as Home Minister under Section 8 to formally issue two-year ISA detention orders for 49 Malaysians, including seven DAP MPs!

Mahathir had always made the false and baseless claim that DAP MPs had not been detained because they were MPs or their political beliefs, but for “trying to stir racial unrest”.

For instance, Mahathir told Asiaweek (11th November 1988): “A few are still under detention because they refuse to give up stirring racial hatred. (Lim) was arrested not because he was leader of the opposition but because he was stirring racial tension in the country…They will be detained until they come around to thinking it is not the right thing to do…”

I did not change a jot of my thinking during my detention that none of the Operation Lalang detainees should have been detained especially as “the real culprits of the tensions and grave situation” in Malaysia in October 1987 were left free completely, and not a single police officer interviewed me to secure my agreement to purportedly “give up stirring racial hatred” before my release in April 1989.

This applied to all the six DAP MPs detained under Operation Lalang – Karpal Singh, Lim Guan Eng, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, the late P. Patto, the late V. David and Lau Dak Kee – who were released without the so-called “come around to thinking it is not the right thing to do”, when they had done nothing wrong in the first place!

In fact, the personal, petty and vindictive nature in the misuse of an already very oppressive ISA was further highlighted by the fact that Guan Eng and I were the last two of the 49 Operation Lalang detainees to be released in April 1989 – when the various batches of releases started in June 1988.

I had always conceded that there were racial tensions in October 1987, but these racial tensions were not created by DAP MPs or others detained under Operation Lalang, but solely the deliberate and irresponsible creation of certain power-seekers in UMNO at a time when there was general insecurity at all levels of the UMNO leadership because of deep UMNO party split between two factions, one led by Mahathir and the other by Tengku Razaleigh-Musa Hitam.

As Bapa Malaysia and the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman said immediately after the Operation Lalang crackdown in November 1987, “It’s not a question of Chinese against the Government but his own party, UMNO, who are against him”. – The London Times, 9th November 1987.

The Government White Paper “Towards Preserving National Security” issued in March 1988 to justify the Operation Lalang detentions referred to the UMNO Youth Rally at the Jalan Raja Muda Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on 17th October 1987 with banners displaying slogans: “MAY 13 HAS BEGUN” and “SOAK IT (KRIS) WITH CHINESE BLOOD” but no action was taken against the UMNO Youth leaders who enjoyed immunity and impunity for such seditious and criminal incitements.

The UMNO Youth leader at the time is none other than the present Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Mahathir cannot shirk responsibility by passing the buck to the police but must come clean and apologise to the nation for masterminding Operation Lalang, the darkest chapter of human rights in Malaysia, paving the way for a wholesale clampdown and subversion of the media, the judiciary and organs of state, whether the Police, the Election Commission or the Anti-Corruption Agency in the rest of his premiership.

Or is Mahathir going to blame the judiciary, the police, the Election Commission, the Anti-Corruption Agency, the media and the key national institutions for their failure to stand up to oppose him to protect, preserve and promote their efficiency, independence and professionalism during his premiership?

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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