Malaysiakini News

Operasi Lalang: Getting the facts right

Kua Kia Soong  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Testifying at the hearing of Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah's defamation suit against Sungai Besar Umno division chief Jamal Mohd Yunos, Anwar Ibrahim, the former education minister during Operasi Lalang has claimed that the infamous event resulted from the discord between MCA Youth and Umno Youth.

At a stroke, he placed the responsibility on the Umno Youth leader, Najib Abdul Razak at the time and thus absolved both himself as the then education minister and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the then prime minister.

Those who respect the importance of truth in historical accounts, no matter how distasteful it may be, begin with discerning accurate facts and the related sequence of events.

In this process, for facts before the advent of Google, Malaysians can be assisted by my record of the events in my 1992 title, Malaysian political realities. In the introduction to my book, leader of the opposition then, Lim Kit Siang wrote:

'Dr Kua Kia Soong has aptly chosen the title of his book Malaysian political realities. In Malaysia, there is not only an industry to rewrite history but a very high-powered conspiracy to daily distort and suppress reality through the government monopoly and control of the electronic and printed mass media.

'The ‘free press’ which the PM, Dr Mahathir Mohamed, claims in international forums that Malaysia enjoys, is a press which is only ‘free’ to distort and suppress political realities in Malaysia.'

The first chapter in my 1992 title is called:‘History and the pribumi: fruitless quest for the unholy grail’, which is a comment on the rather contrived controversy between Umno and MCA during October 1986.

It is important to note the date that the controversy was contrived, namely, October 1986.

In the article, I was at pains to point out that 'the issue of whether any community is genuinely ‘pribumi’ or ‘immigrant’ has absolutely no significance to the question of peoples’ rights.

This controversy was by no means the only one orchestrated by Umno in 1986. There was also the one about the 'social contract' created by Abdullah Ahmad of the "Ketuanan Melayu" fame.

Any serious scholar of Malaysian politics will know that all the “racial” controversies in recent Malaysian history including the May 13 incident, have been orchestrated.

There is also no doubt that Umno Youth has played the role of stormtroopers who carry out the breast-beating and gong-banging at the behest of their political masters in Umno.

I am sure Anwar is familiar with these “standard operating procedures” within Umno. The mob which attacked us during the Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor in 1996 was no different.

Nevertheless, in Chapter 12 of my book, ‘October 1987: The furore in the Chinese schools’, it was the education minister, namely Anwar with the connivance of the PM at the time, Mahathir, who made the decision to send non-qualified administrators to the Chinese schools.

Whereas the contrived controversy over ‘pribumi vs immigrant’ by Umno Youth and MCA Youth was in October 1986, it was the Chinese schools controversy in October 1987 which caused the Chinese community to protest against the unjust move and which resulted in orchestrated tension that led to Operasi Lalang.

The DAP was also in the committee which opposed this unjust and orchestrated move to send unqualified administrators to the Chinese schools.

I am sure DAP leaders such as Lim Kit Siang will agree with me that it was not the Umno Youth-MCA Youth spat in 1986 but the Chinese schools issue in October 1987 that led to Operasi Lalang.

Certainly, the Umno Youth leader at the time, Najib was one of the Umno firebrands who were at the Jalan Raja Muda Stadium where racist banners were displayed just before Operasi Lalang was launched.

But the responsibility for sending the unqualified administrators to the Chinese schools rests on Anwar while responsibility for launching the arrests and detention rests squarely on the home minister and prime minister at the time, Mahathir.

Yes, you can be forgiven but …

Having left Umno, both Anwar and Mahathir can ask for forgiveness from the victims of Operasi Lalang and the Chinese community for orchestrating that racial tension which gave Mahathir the excuse to launch Operasi Lalang, the precursor to his assault on the judiciary.

One thing they must never do is to distort the facts of history. As Noam Chomsky has warned us:

'Younger people who are being indoctrinated into the contemporary system of falsification - they really have to do some research to find out what is the truth…'

Jean-Jacques Rousseau goes even further by saying, 'The falsification of history has done more to impede human development than any one thing known to mankind!'


The writer is Suaram advisor.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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