Thirty years have passed since the Mahathir government launched ‘Operation Lalang’, the arrest and detention without trial of more than 100 innocent Malaysians under the ISA and the continued detention of more than 30 of them for more than a year at Kamunting Detention Camp. Three newspapers were also closed down for at least 3 months.

The crackdown against dissidents at the end of 1987 was the precursor to the assault against the Malaysian Judiciary in 1988 when the Lord President and several other Supreme Court judges were sacked. Civil liberties were further eroded by new changes to the law. It is quite clear, therefore, that this so-called “Operation Lalang” was a signal for calculated repression and intimidation of the Malaysian people and to divert attention from the irresolvable problems confronting the ruling party. As a consequence of those actions by the Mahathir government, the Malaysian Judiciary has not recovered its independence up to the present day.

For all the lame excuse given by the Mahathir government for this abuse of democracy in the country, the crisis in 1987 was in fact the creation of the power struggle within UMNO. As the Tunku, our first prime minister put it:
“UMNO was facing a break-up. The Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s hold on the party appeared critical when election rigging was alleged to have given him a very narrow victory against Tengku Razaleigh. The case alleging irregularities brought by UMNO members was pending in court. If the judgement went against him he would have no choice but to step down. So he had to find a way out of his predicament. A national crisis had to be created to bring UMNO together as a united force to fight a common enemy – and the imaginary enemy in this case was the Chinese community…If there was indeed a security threat facing the country, why was action not taken much sooner?” (The Why? Papers by Suaram & K. Das, 1989)

According to a law professor and keen observer of Malaysian legal affairs:

“What Dr Mahathir has done in my view is to sacrifice, for the sake of a transitory, temporary and possibly illusory political advantage to himself and his supporters, the priceless asset of judicial independence… it is the Constitution, as the supreme law, entrusted to the judges, which is the best guarantee that the executive, once elected, will not act dictatorially.”

This view was echoed by the former Lord President Tun Mohammad Suffian Hashim and many more notable national and international figures.

Since 1987, the ruling coalition has continued to use detention without trial as a convenient tool against dissidents – PBS in the early nineties, Al Arqam, the Reformasi movement and more recently, Islamic groups. While the ISA has been rescinded since 2012, other laws allowing detention without trial have taken its place, ie. SOSMA, POCA and POTA.

Before and during Operation Lalang, affidavits have been produced to show that detainees were tortured and dehumanized. In the last thirty years, the cases of torture have not diminished and they include the highly publicized cases of Anwar Ibrahim, Munawar Anees and Malek Hussein. Contrary to claims by the ruling coalition, ISA detentions have been for punitive rather than preventive purposes.

Through the years, state endorsed torturers have been getting away with their actions, not unlike what has been happening at Guantanamo Bay. Until the Independent Police Complaints Commission is established as recommended by the Royal Commission, detainees will continue to be at the mercy of these torturers.

Thus, on this 30th anniversary of Operation Lalang,

1. We call on all Malaysians who cherish justice, human rights and the rule of law to demand the end to detention without trial (SOSMA, POCA, NSC & POTA) and to restore the rule of law in Malaysia, towards a good governance which protect human right. Freedom from arbitrary arrests and detention, coupled with the right to challenge it in a court of law are sacred civil liberties which Malaysians are entitled to 50 years after Independence. It is worth reminding Malaysians that the sixty days of solitary confinement allowed under the ISA and the removal of judges’ ability to make an objective appraisal of the ISA cases are more draconian than countries facing terrorist threats, for example Northern Ireland in the 70s’ South Africa under Apartheid, or even the US and Britain today.

2. We demand a public apology and a sincere expression of remorse from the former Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad for depriving so many innocent Malaysians of their freedom and the torture they went through under Operation Lalang as well as the assault on the Malaysian Judiciary which has still not fully recovered since the Eighties. Mahathir owes an apology not only to all the victims of Operation Lalang but also to the former Lord President and the Supreme Court judges that he sacked in 1988 and to the Malaysian rakyat for all the financial scandals since the eighties that have cost the rakyat billions of ringgit! The leader of the Opposition called Mahathir’s privatisation of our national assets, “piratisation” to show the billions squandered by UMNO crony capitalists.

3. We would like to remind the public that even wartime detainees are afforded basic protections under the Geneva Convention, which condemns torture and inhuman treatment of detainees. The National Human Rights Commission, Suhakam has also concluded that “there appears to be sufficient evidence to justify a finding of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of some of the detainees.” We demand a thorough investigation into all allegations of torture under the ISA and for the torturers to be accountable for their actions.

Initiated by:
Civil Rights Committee of KLSCAH
Youth Section of KLSCAH
Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
Suara Rakyat Malaysia,SUARAM

Endorsed by:
1) Academy of Tamil Studies
2) Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
3) Amateurs
4) Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAMAN)
5) Association of Women Laywers
6) Ban Cyanide in Gold Mining
7) Baramkini
8) Centre For Malaysian Chinese Studies
9) Community Development Centre (CDC)
10) Damn the Dams Action Group
11) Dewan Perhimpunan China Melaka
12) Diversity
13) Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisations (PRIMA)
14) Group of Concerned Citizens
15) Himpunan Hijau
16) In between cultura
17) Institute for Development of Alternative Living (IDEAL)
18) Institute for Leadership and Development Studies (LEAD)
19) Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
20) Johor Yellow Flame
21) Kelas Pencerahan
22) Kill The Bill
23) Kita Forum
24) KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Civil Rights Committee
25) KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth
26) Kuliah Buku
27) Let’s Art At Sawit Center
28) LLG Cultural Development Centre
29) Malaysia Youth & Student Democratic Movement (DEMA)
30) Malaysian Indian Network Development Society (MINDS)
31) Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (MIPAS)
32) Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (MITRA)
33) Malaysian Youth Care Association (PRIHATIN)
34) Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)
35) Mama Bersih
36) Melaka Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section
37) Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation
38) Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS)
39) North South Initiative
40) Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute
41) Partners of Community Organisation in Sabah (PACOS)
42) People Ideas Culture
43) Perak Civic Forum
44) Perak Young Graduate
45) Persahabatan Semparuthi Johor
46) Persatuan Alumni Bahasa Tionghua USM Bahagian Utara
47) Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM Selangor & KL
48) Persatuan Hainan Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan Youth Section
49) Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor, KL dan Perak
50) Persatuan Kwangsi Selangor dan KL
51) Persatuan Pendidikan Du Zhong Pulau Pinang
52) Persatuan Persahabatan Berpanjangan Kuala Lumpur
53) Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (RAPAT)
54) Persatuan Wui Leng Selangor dan Kuala Lumpur
55) Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
56) Sahabat Rakyat
57) Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia
58) Selangor and Federal Territory Kwong Siew Association
59) Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Hokkien Association Youth Section
60) Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM)
61) Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
62) Sunflower Electoral Education Movement (SEED)
63) Tenaganita
64) Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
65) The Association of Graduates From Universities & Colleges of China, Malaysia
66) The Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
67) The Federation of Alumni Association of Taiwan Universities, Malaysia
68) The Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Teo Chew Association
69) The United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
70) The United Chinese School Teachers’ Association of Malaysia
71) Thinking Society
72) University of Malaya Association of New Youth (UMANY)
73) Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
74) Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
75) Young Progressives of Malaysia
76) Youth Era
77) Youth for Change




Leave a Reply