COMMENT | We are now commemorating the 30th anniversary of the biggest crackdown on innocent activists, politicians from both sides of the divide (including MCA leaders ), intellectuals, activists, etc, including the revocation of the publishing licences of two dailies - the MCA-owned The Star and Sin Chew Jit Poh.
The dragnet was the landmark of then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's draconian iron-fisted Machiavellian style of maintaining power for 22 years.
Mahathir had been an authoritarian and condemned for bringing “dooms and time bombs” to Malaysia by his political enemy - but now ally - DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang.
Ops Lalang was said to be caused by the growing racial tensions by Mahathir's government that were said to be too “tolerant” and “liberal”.
However, the real and immediate cause was the appointment of about 100 non-Mandarin speaking senior assistants to vernacular Chinese schools, which caused anxiety and fear among Chinese educationists and politicians.
On Oct 11, 1987, the United Chinese Schools Committee Association, also known as Dong Jiao Zong, together with Chinese politicians had gathered more than 2,000 people to protest against this decision that was seen as a direct attack on the character of Chinese vernacular schools.
Coincidentally, the education minister then was Anwar Ibrahim.
At the time, Anwar was a rising political star and Mahathir's protege in Umno. Anwar repeatedly warned of retaliation and that the Education Ministry's decision would not be changed or compromised despite pressure from component parties, including MCA.
A week later, on Oct 17, 1987, Umno Youth responded to the Thean Hou Kong 2,000 gathering with a bigger rally of 10,000, where Umno politicians displayed their ire at MCA politicians for participating in the protest.
This was followed with a promise of a half a million Umno members gathering on Nov 1, 1987, by the then Umno secretary-general Sanusi Junid, who is a Mahathir loyalist. This was calculated and meant to increase the tempo of racial tension.
However, on or about Oct 27, 1987, Ops Lalang was carried out, targeting Chinese activists, academicians, politicians, etc, who were arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA). They were arrested and detained without trial by the order of the home minister, who was also the prime minister.
Looking back, the protagonists or “villains” of the dark period known as Ops Lalang were none other than Mahathir and Anwar.
Was the blatant and forceful decision to appoint a large number of non-Mandarin speaking teachers to helm Chinese vernacular schools intentional?
Was this decision made knowing that it would provoke a massive “violent” reaction from Chinese educationists and politicians?
Were the events leading to Ops Lalang orchestrated by both Mahathir and Anwar?
Ironically, we are now asked by the biggest critic of these two “villains” who was also a victim of Ops Lalang, Kit Siang, to vote and support these “villains”.
DAP and Kit Siang might have chosen to forgive and absolve these “villains” but there are others, including MCA politicians, who were innocent victims of this blatant abuse of power.
We cannot allow a repeat of such a politically heinous act. Never again!
TI LIAN KER is MCA publicity spokesperson and religious harmony bureau chairperson.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.