Ops Lalang – Anwar not as culpable as Dr M

Opinion  |  Terence Netto
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | In the flurry of recriminations accompanying the 30th anniversary of Operasi Lalang, Anwar Ibrahim is being fingered in the inevitable blame-fixing over that dark chapter of our post-Independence history.

To be sure, he is not as obvious a target of the fault-finders as Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The latter was the home minister and prime minister at the time of Operasi Lalang.

In those roles, Mahathir was at the top of the chain of command as far as effecting the arrests of 106 social and political activists that took place from late Oct 1987 was concerned.

Anwar was the education minister when the ISA dragnet swept scores of linguistic activists and politicians into its maw, amidst rising tensions in the federal capital over issues of mother tongue education.

It was Anwar's ministry that placed some 100 non-Mandarin speaking personnel in Chinese language schools, a move that drew protests from sentinels of Chinese education who inveighed with passion against it at a large gathering in a Taoist temple off Jalan Syed Putra.

In a kneejerk reaction, Umno Youth staged a demonstration at the Jalan Raja Muda Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 18, an event marked by incendiary speeches, the most blood-curdling of which was delivered by the movement's chief at the time, Najib Razak.

For sheer voltage of its inflammatory content, the speaker deserved to be detained under the ISA - that is, if others less culpable or not guilty of any kind of incitement, were also being detained, as was the case with the 1987 ISA arrests...

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