21 years after Operasi Lalang


21 years after Operasi Lalang, ISA still a political tool for the Government

We, the People, want it thrown away once and for all!

27 October 2008 marks 21 years since the infamous Operasi Lalang. The operation, which was carried out on 27 October 1987 by the Malaysian government to crack down on opposition leaders and social activists, saw the arrests of 106 persons under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the revoking of the publishing licenses of two dailies, The Star and the Sin Chew Jit Poh and two weeklies, The Sunday Star and Watan.

Today, the ISA is still being used extensively and threatened to be invoked to curb the activities and fundamental freedoms of political leaders, social activists, journalists, and more recently, bloggers. The arrests of Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Teresa Kok, Tan Hoon Cheng and most recently, Cheng Lee Whee under the ISA and a number of other incidents indicates that Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, whom has pledged to use his remaining five months to reform the judiciary, the police and the ACA, will instead end up putting more people behind bars and further curbing fundamental civil liberties.

Since Abdullah Badawi came to power in 2003, the ISA has continued to be used in the same way his predecessors did, in the name of “national security”, often invoked upon people deemed to be critical of the government. The list of people detained under the ISA during the period of Abdullah Badawi’s premiership range from persons spreading rumours through SMS to political dissidents and alleged “terrorists.” In recent years, the government has created a climate of fear through the use of the ISA by threatening to invoke it upon bloggers who allegedly write inflammatory statements and upon those who participate in street demonstrations. This was stepped up in the run-up to the 2008 Election, and has continued until now to prop up the ruling party’s weakened hold on power.

The Abolish ISA Movement (Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA, GMI)’s monitoring reveals that there are currently 66 detainees in the Kamunting Detention Camp. 10 individuals have been arrested under the ISA from January until October. Three out of ten have been released after few hours or few days of detention (Teresa Kok, Tan Hoon Cheng and Cheng Lee Wee).

Most of the detainees are alleged members of “religious extremist groups” including the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), while another significant number comprises those allegedly involved in counterfeiting currency or falsifying documents, Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) activists and also blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin. 6 detainees have been detained for more than 7 years under the ISA. To date, none of the detainees have been charged with any offence in an open court. More than half of them are into their second detention order and out of that number, 24 are serving their sixth or even seventh year in detention.

We have a vast array of laws which provide an adequate legal framework to deal with alleged threats against national security without contravening universally accepted principles of justice and human rights. Why, therefore, is the ISA still used by the Malaysian government?

GMI, in existence for more than seven years, has succeeded, through its many programmes, in raising public awareness about the injustice and cruelty of the ISA. It has also been able to put continuous pressure on the government by lobbying at home and abroad. As part of an intensive programme in conjunction with the seventh year of detention of a number of current detainees, GMI has produced several new books and pamphlets which have been distributed throughout the country.

In commemorating the 21 years since the Operasi Lalang, GMI once more urges the Government of Malaysia:

· To immediately and unconditionally release all persons presently detained without trial, and, where appropriate, to prosecute them in a public and fair trial.

· To immediately repeal all laws which allow for detention without trial, such as the ISA, the Emergency Ordinance (EO) and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act.

· To immediately close all detention camps where detainees are held without trial.

· To apologize to all detainees held without trial (past and present), and provide compensation for their suffering and anguish and the injustices perpetrated upon them.

· To investigate all complaints and cases of victimization, torture, cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment, tyranny and abuse of power in relation to past and present detentions, and to prosecute the perpetrators including, but not limited to, establishing a Royal Commission of Inquiry for the said purpose.

· To immediately debate SUHAKAM’s reports in Parliament and implement its recommendations.

Released by

Nalini E.
GMI Secretariat


Moderator’s note: This is not the first time I’ve read press statements from GMI like this. In fact, I think I have posted a couple of them. But it seems that no matter how many times we urge that something be done, the BN government continues to tell us that no change will happen, and the ISA will not even be reviewed.

5 Comments on “21 years after Operasi Lalang”

  1. Well done, Michelle. We need to highlight this problem as much as we can because the voices against the draconian ISA must rise in harmony and need to be well orchestrated. The former is happening but the later – we need to be mobilised and the rakyat must work together.

  2. Gadfly says:

    I think some, if not many, of the former detainees and their family members may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). I wonder what GMI is doing about this.

  3. Paul Warren says:

    You know what? There are many who hide behind UMNO over the ISA. It is about time we targeted them.

    MCA, Gerakan, MIC, PBS, and so on benefit from UMNO’s use of the ISA. As you can see its only those who pose a threat against UMNO or who are seen to be undermining UMNO’s authority who end up being held under ISA.

    Since March 8th its become fashionable for Gerakan, MIC and MCA to keep saying that they don’t support ISA. But they would not lift a finger to show that they really mean it. Their excuse is that it can be done better at the cabinet.

    Well, when Pakatan takes over, I’d love to see Pakatan coalition members use that same excuse on the BN guys.

    And how are you? So fast its going to be a month since we met!!
    Oh, I’ve been busy, but quite well. Hope you’re doing well too. Drop me an email anytime.

  4. Jeff says:

    It is definitely not a pleasure trip to get lock in ISA prison! All sorts of indoctrinations and horrific technique are used on detainees to crank out confession from them, PTSD is only one of the after effect most of the detainees will get from their horrendous experience.

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