Today, Oct 27 marks the 29th year of the massive Operasi Lalang swoop by the Barisan Nasional government in 1987 in detaining over 100 Malaysian voices of conscience - politicians, educationists, environmentalists, religious leaders and activists, jailed for periods unknown to them, without judge or jury, denied the right to counsel, and detention without trial all in the name of protecting the national security of the nation.
Democratic nations were built on strong foundations of honesty, accountability, respect and justice for all, that over time, becomes the core identity, the pulse and heartbeat of a people. For the past 60 years, such cultural ideas have been deemed archaic, misogynistic, racist or even apartheid in nature by the Umno/BN government in their support for race-based cronyism and religious bigotry.
Today, I urge the Malaysian government that it is time it finds its moral compass, realises its wrongdoings, apologise to the people and sincerely make amends to safeguard the spirit and sanctity of upholding human rights and civil liberties as enshrined in the Federal Constitution that no person can be denied of, before it continues to destroy this nation of ours.
The BN government has clearly put itself above the interest of the people and above what is enshrined in the Federal Constitution which is the supreme law of the land and worked hand-in-glove in allowing an allegedly kleptocratic ruler like Najib Abdul Razak to continue to bleed this nation dry.
After almost six decades, the BN government of Malaysia is still using old scare tactics in trying to make sense of the need to have race based political parties, race-based policies, and has always used their trump card - the 3Rs of religion, race and the rulers, to hold on to power in whatever way possible, for as long as they can, while creating little Napoleons along the way that hinder national reconciliation and cementing bad governance.
With social injustice, socio-economic inequality, racism and patriarchy raging in Malaysia, the Umno-led government has yet to learn from its mistakes in the past and has allowed politics that lack decorum, transparency and accountability only to be propagated further by politics of thuggery, racism and violence as seen in threats against the Bersih rally.
Twenty-nine years ago, patriotic, courageous Malaysian citizens, men and women had stood up without fear or favour to challenge the archaic, oppressive and draconian Internal Security Act that had been manipulated as a tool to silence voices of dissent and differing opinions.
Human Rights Watch has reported that “Malaysia’s respect for human rights plummeted in 2015 with increased harassment and persecution of human rights defenders, activists, political opposition figures, and journalists.”
Restrictive and oppressive laws
After 59 years of independence, after 29 years of Operasi Lalang and after six years post the abolition of the Internal Security Act 1960, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional has failed its people, the native Orang Asli, Orang Asal Sabah and Sarawak, Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sikhs, Kadazans, Ibans, Dayak by continuously imposing restrictive and oppressive laws and abusing existing ones like the Sedition Act 1948, Printing Press and Publications Act, Universities and University Colleges Act, trampling on the rights of Malaysians to assemble, for free speech, the right to religion, the right to have differing views and the right to a fair trial in the court of law, without fear or favour.
What has Umno/BN done for national reconciliation post Operasi Lalang? What policies have been discussed or let alone been seen to be implemented to foster ties between the many different races, religions, language and culture to harness unity, patriotism, and socio-economic justice amongst Malaysians?
If at all, Umno/BN has systematically breathed life into tightening its iron-fisted grip over freedom, transparency, justice, equality as the foundation of a Malaysian Malaysia.
The DAP today honours all men and women detainees of the Operasi Lalang dragnet who have stood up valiantly, to be the voice of conscience for the many other Malaysians who are voiceless, the minorities, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the victims of race politics, race policies and religious bigotry to stand up to fight for righteousness.
An oppressive and draconian Internal Security Act 2.0 is slowly being resurrected and given a new breath of life by Umno/BN in political criminalisation of the rights of fundamental civil liberties as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
KASTHURI PATTO is DAP’s Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan.