Media statement by MP for Batu Kawan and International Secretary for Wanita DAP, Kasthuri Patto on 27 October 2021:
Operasi Lalang, 34 years on – Governments that continue to use draconian repressive, preventive laws that are undemocratic, unjust and tyrannical shudder and fear at the voices of the rakyat demanding for good governance, equality, integrity, accountability and freedom
This day, 34 years ago on 27th October 1987, will forever be etched in my mind and the minds of many family members as D-Day of Operasi Lalang, a ‘weeding’ operation conducted by the then Barisan Nasional Government to weed out voices of dissent labelling them as a “threat to national security”.
My father, P. Patto together with leaders like Karpal Singh, Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng, V. David, Kerk Kim Hock, Sim Tong Hin, Hu Sepang, Mahfuz Omar, Yunus Ali, Mohammad Sabu, Khalid Samad, Brother Anthony Rogers, Meenakshi Raman, Chee Heng Leng, Theresa Lim and even Tajuddin Abdul Rahman belonged to the Ops Lalang alumni and what painful memories it brings me today.
The list ranged from Members of Parliament and State Assemblypersons, lecturers, engineers, educationists, environmentalists, women’s rights leaders, religious leaders, rubber tappers, a vegetable seller, a market hawker, chairman of a factory union, businessmen and human rights defenders were all scooped in the biggest haul by the Malaysian authorities in October 1987 – a total of more than 106 men and women.
Their charges? To uphold human rights, democracy, freedom and to demand for accountability and good governance.
My father was detained under the then International Security Act 1960 on October 27th and had 5 charges pitted against him. He was detained for 15 months without trial, no opportunity to defend himself and held illegally for trumped up charges by a paranoid Government. His party comrades faced the same situation too, with Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng detained on the 26th of October and the last to be released amongst their peers.
The primary identity of the ISA was to be used as a preventive detention law which is detention without trial to counter and combat communist insurgents and although the Malayan Emergency ended in 1960, the ISA was passed in the same year and was arbitrarily used and abused by the Government for decades after that – as and when it pleased to silence voices of opposition and dissent.
Although abolished in 2012 after growing nationwide and international protests, the ISA was inevitably replaced by other regressive laws in Malaysia such as the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA) and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA).
A Government that falls back on using regressive, preventive laws like the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) shows that it not only fears the people but fears the essence of what a Government is built on – democracy, freedom, equality, justice, integrity, accountability and good governance.
While we sometimes look at human rights violations and the use of these ‘detention without trial’ laws in other countries and shake our heads in dismay, let us also be reminded of the same laws that we have in our country and the imminent risk of that law being used on anyone, including you and I.
If Maria Chin Abdullah can be detained in solitary confinement for 10 days under SOSMA, if State Assemblymen Guna and Saminathan can be detained under SOSMA, including scores of Malaysians held under this draconian law, then what assurance do we have our own family members will not be next?
Malaysia has adequate laws to nab criminals, including those in organized crimes and in gangs and there is no leeway or shortcut for criminals. You must face the music for your actions.
However, arrested with no proof or evidence and kept in custody for an uncertain period of time must be challenged by all Malaysians and regressive laws like SOSMA must be abolished.
SOSMA and other regressive and draconian laws like the Sedition Act 1948 must be abolished in its entirety and not used as a political tool by the powers that be.
A Government that continues to use regressive, draconian and preventive laws against her people are the ones threatening Parliamentary democracy in the country.
The Government of Keluarga Malaysia which is now a newly minted member of the UN Human Rights Council must show the world and other counterparts in the council that we walk the talk and not merely lip service.
In memory of all the men and women who were detained under Operasi Lalang, 34 years ago.