Will removing Najib redeem Dr M for Ops Lalang? - By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Malaysiakini : “That’s why he said this, ‘There are
things I have done that you disagreed with. But let’s do this first, and
if you think action will be required, I am willing to be called to
account.’” – Lim Guan Eng on Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s response to Ops Lalang
COMMENT | On the 30th anniversary
of Ops Lalang, I keep reading all these articles by former detainees
about what they went through, how they coped but most importantly, how
they moved on. There is a commonality in their stories, the security
apparatus knocking on their doors in the dead of night, the sundering
from their loved ones, the interrogations, the camaraderie between
political detainees but most important of all, the bewilderment that
their deeds warranted such a harsh response from the state.
I always wonder as someone who had served in the state security
apparatus, the other side of the story. What is the story of the guards,
the interrogators, the personnel who paid late night visits and carted
off innocent people from their homes? How do they feel about this aspect
of their duties? I have been asked the same questions before.
Now, of course, the architect of the event is the de facto
leader of the opposition. Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed has
been embraced by the opposition and now leads the insurrection against
the Umno state. Those who were detained are high-ranking political
operatives in the opposition and have since joined forces with the man
they called dictator or worse in the hopes of overthrowing the current
Umno grand poobah.
On an emotional level, I don’t think anyone can blame politicians for
their ‘forgive if not forget’ strategy. After all, they were the ones
detained. They were the ones who lost time. Those social activists who
are not on the same boat politically are often times vilified for not
getting with the programme. They are told it is a new day and it is time
we move on from the past.
There was a time when social activism and political opposition were
closely aligned but these days when mainstream politics is defined not
by ideology or principles but rather the realpolitik of Mahathir, anyone
bringing up uncomfortable truths is shouted down or vilified as
attempting to “destroy” the opposition.
Last year, social activist Kua Kia Soong (photo) wrote a powerful piece on why Mahathir should apologise
for Operation Lallang. The article highlighted not only the democratic
abuses that went on his watch but also the financial scandals that for
some reason did not make Malaysia a land of thieves. While the laws enacted after the operation further eroded our civil
liberties, the ones enacted by the current Umno grand poobah are even
more disastrous for our country. So while I cannot make the case that
the financial scandals under the Najib administration are worse than
under the former prime minister turned de facto opposition leader, I can argue that the clear and present danger to our liberties is the Najib administration.
Indeed, the Najib administration did not even need an Ops Lalang to enact these new laws. Last year when I wroteabout
the National Security Council Act – “However, this new law is perhaps
the most audacious play of tyranthood by a sitting Umno prime minister.
Not only has he militarised Umno, he has done it with very little
resistance from the Malaysian polity.” – nobody, certainly not the opposition, was very interested in taking it to the streets.
Loss of moral weight
When I told a close friend and someone who has been detained by the
state security apparatus during Ops Lalang that I was going to write
this piece, he said, nobody cares. I can understand that. I told him,
the Ops Lalang history (and certain personalities) have lost some moral
weight when the perpetrators and victims collaborate on removing a
More than the loss of moral weight, my friend reminded me that I am
discussing this issue in highly partisan times where identity and
personality politics trumps any discussion on substantive issues. Nobody
cares because it is not that people have moved on but rather the people
who should be leading the charge on issues such as these have to come
up with elaborate justifications as to why they have chosen the allies
they have. Not that they need these justifications for their supporters. Keep in mind that while the official narrative for Ops Lalang was the
preservation of racial and religious equilibrium, the reality was that
it was a means to maintain hegemony. The reality was that Umno was
convulsing and something needed to be done to maintain order.
Kua quoted Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman (right in photo)
- “The case alleging irregularities brought by Umno members was pending
in court. If the judgment went against him he would have no choice but
to step down. So he had to find a way out of his predicament. A national
crisis had to be created to bring Umno together as a united force to
fight a common enemy - and the imaginary enemy in this case was the
Chinese community... Overnight, Malaysia has become a police state...” Does removing Najib redeem Mahathir for his role in Ops Lalang? Of
course, Ops Lalang is but one incident in the history of what Malaysia
is today and there is very little doubt that what Malaysia is today,
good and bad, is what Mahathir willed.
In the same interview that begins this piece, Guan Eng claims –
“Sometimes you need a dictator to overthrow a dictator. It’s not what we
want but under the circumstances, he would be constrained by the
structure. In PH (Pakatan Harapan), all parties are equal, no single one
is dominant. Everyone starts on equal basis. We work by consensus. Dr
Thirty years after Ops Lalang, a former detainee claims that the
dictator who imprisoned him is needed to overthrow another dictator.