Press Statement by DAP Secretary-General and MP for Bagan Lim Guan Eng in Kuala Lumpur on 27.10.2017
30th Anniversary of Ops Lalang: The Struggle Against Repressive Legislation Continues
Today is the 30th anniversary of one of the darkest episodes of modern Malaysian history, the Operasi Lalang arrest and detention of 106 people including NGO activists, politicians and academics under the draconian Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) on 27 October 1987. At the same time, media freedom was curtailed when the newspaper licenses of The Star, Sin Chew Jit Poh and Watan were revoked.
As the first to be detained and the last released under Operasi Lalang, I have constantly reminded myself that we must never give up the struggle to free Malaysia from political persecution and repressive legislation. Although it has been 30 years since Operasi Lalang, which was the second largest ISA crackdown since the 13 May riots in 1969, our nation continues to be tormented by similar draconian laws that suppress our fundamental liberties. We therefore cannot afford to give up, because if we do then tyranny and oppression will win.
Although the ISA was finally repealed on 31 July 2012, there is no cause for rejoice as the spirit of the law continues to live on in the form of newly introduced laws and amendments to existing laws. Not long after the repeal of the ISA, the new Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) was introduced, reintroducing provisions for preventive detention. Although the government promised not to use the law against legitimate political opposition, the arrests of Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah and former UMNO politician Dato’ Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan as well as Tun Dr Mahathir’s former political secretary Matthias Chang proves that the law is nothing more than a political tool.
The enactment of SOSMA was followed by a raft of other oppressive laws, such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 as well as Section 124 of the Penal Code, which now criminalises “activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy” and providing for 20 years imprisonment for the ill-defined “crime”. Further to that, the new National Security Council Act 2016 has bequeathed emergency powers to the Prime Minister, who is now empowered to declare “security areas” that allow the suspension of fundamental liberties.
Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak’s promises made in 2011 to abolish the ISA and the Sedition Act now rings hollow. Not only as the ISA been replaced with a host of new and equally repressive legislation, the Sedition Act that the Prime Minister promised to abolish does not only continue to exist but has in fact been strengthened and widened in scope.
It is clear that the BN government under Najib has neither the political will nor the intention to restore the fundamental liberties of Malaysians, especially when the continued survival of his regime depends on the use of such laws in order to silence and suppress his political opponents.
We owe it to our future generations to ensure that Ops Lalang should never happen again, including repealing those repressive laws which are ISA laws in disguise. Only by bringing in a government that is committed to abolish all these laws that violates the fundamental human rights, can we ensure that Malaysians finally enjoy real freedom, especially freedom from fear.
LIM GUAN ENG