Are we heading towards another Ops Lalang?

“When you understand what someone’s real intentions are, nothing they say or do is surprising.” – Eyes Wide Open

Several events in the past week sent alarm bells ringing in HartalMSM because it had an eerie sense of deja vu about the events leading up to 27 October 1987 – the day the infamous Ops Lalang was launched. In the biggest crackdown since May 13, 1969, ops Lalang saw over 100 people arrested under the ISA and the publishing licenses of two dailies (The Star and Sin Chew Jit Poh) and two weeklies (The Sunday Star and Watan) revoked.

Fast forward to 2010. What were the events that alerted us to the possibility of another Ops Lalang?

First, there was news that the printing permits for PKR’s Suara Keadilan and PAS’ Harakah were not renewed. This is in addition to 2 books of political cartoons by Zunar being banned.

Then there was news of a high powered committee formed to combat “false news” comprising the Home Minister,

(the guy in charge of bringing out the guys with clubs, tear gas and guns)

the Information Minister,

(the guy in charge of government propaganda)

and Law Minister

(the guy in charge of making sure people go to jail).

They would command a task force made up of senior officials of enforcement
agencies (the guys who will be finding, catching and punishing the people publishing “false news”).

In addition, the committee discussed amendments to tighten the already repressive laws, the training of investigating officers, treatment of witnesses and the definition of false news. The last part is really worrying because it means that now the truth in Malaysia would no longer be based on facts, but based on whether the government defines it as “False News” or not.

By the way, isn’t it absolutely hypocritical that the front page of Berita Harian on the newly registered voters ratio patently was ‘false news’ but we never heard the ‘Ministry of Truth’ give even a warning to them?

Our suspicions were further aroused by the arrest of blogger CheguBard for an article written in his blog. While we hope no such thing happens, we suspect more blogger arrests will follow soon.

If these events don’t spell “CR-A-C-K-D-O-W-N”, I don’t know what does!

In 1987, the official story is that the Ops Lalang crackdown was necessary because various groups had exploited the government’s liberal and tolerant attitude to play up “sensitive racial issues” thus creating “racial tension” in the country.

This is eerily mirrored in Hishammudin words as he announced the committee to combat “false news”.

Hishammuddin was quoted in the Star as saying, “All this while, the Government did not take any stern action. However, if this is allowed to carry on, the people would continue to be cheated.”

In all these events, we can recognise the signs that strongly suggest an Ops Lalang type crackdown may be on the cards. We have pieced together the chronology of events leading up to Ops Lalang in 1987, as well as the political context surrounding it. We will then reflect it to current events in 2010 and see what the parallels are.

First, let’s compare the political context that gace birth to Ops Lalang.

1987 – UMNO was in political crisis
After the 1987 UMNO elections, the party was bitterly split into Team A (DrM) / Team B (KuLi). Mahathir was also opposed by 2 former PMs – the Tunku, and Tun Hussein Onn – as well as his ex-DPM Musa Hitam.

2010 – UMNO is in political crisis
There are currently SEVERAL camps in UMNO – the Najib faction, the Muhyiddin faction, the Khairy faction and the Mahathir faction. These are further split into sub-factions according to the division leaders influence. Without a strong leadership, the division leaders are holding have the top leadership by the balls making UMNO an incoherent whole, rife with backstabbing shenanigans.

1987 – MCA was in disarray
It too was struggling with a drawn out Team A/Team B struggle, which earlier saw the MCA president being forced out. It was also mired in massive corruption scandals, leading to a disastrous performance in the 1986 General Elections.

2010 – MCA is in disarray
The MCA was again wiped out in the 2008 elections as they were seen to be impotent to represent Chinese interests. The mother of all Malaysian mega-scandals – the PKFZ – rocked the MCA as several big names were implicated. The Team A/Team B struggle had also not been resolved and finally resulted in the ugly power struggle which forced MCA President out of office.

1987 – UMNO / BN political influence was declining
In the 1986 general elections, the BN’s share of votes declined from 61 percent in 1982 to 57 percent. The battle between PAS, Semangat UMNO 46 and UMNO split the Malay vote into 3 and this could possibly spell the end of UMNO /BN.

2010 – UMNO / BN political influence is declining
The 2008 general elections was BN’s worst performance in Malaysia’s history, losing it’s 2/3 majority in Parliament and control of five states. The battle between PAS, PKR and UMNO had also split the Malay vote into 3 and this could possibly  spell the end of UMNO /BN.

1987 – Economy was in trouble
On Budget day, Oct 24, the Finance Minister, Daim Zainuddin, painted a bleak and gloomy picture of the Malaysian economy, with slowing growth, increased cost of living, rising unemployment, massive govt debts and spiralling budget deficits. This was a shocking announcement compared to Daim’s optimistic growth figures projected in the previous years.

2010 – Economy was in trouble
In May, Minister in the PM’s Department, Datuk Seri Idris Jala, shocked the nation by announcing that Malaysia will be bankrupt by 2019 if it does not cut subsidies and rein in govt borrowings. This was despite optimistic growth figures projected in by the Finance Minister / PM himself in April!

1987 – Massive and rampant corruption
Some examples – Daim Zainuddin’s UMBC share scandal, EPF investment deal scandal, privatisation of essential services to crony companies, etc which severely affected investor confidence in a recession climate.

2010 – Massive and rampant corruption
Some examples – PKFZ, lavish “lawatan sambil belajar”, Altantuya, military hardware deals, stolen jet engines, GLC bailouts, etc which severely affected investor confidence in a competitive globalised environment.

1987 – Strong and outspoken Opposition
People were fed up with Mahathir’s government due to rising unemployment, shrinking social services and subsidies, corruption scandals and corporate failures, curbs on civil liberties and democratic rights, etc. Opposition politicians received wide support from mainly non-Malays. Lim Kit Siang was especially outspoken in questioning the massive govt corruption cases.

2010 – Strong and outspoken Opposition
People are fed up with the BN govt. Rising unemployment, crime rate and social ills, lousy govt services, subsidy cuts, massive corruption scandals and GLC failures, curbs on civil liberties and democratic rights, etc. Opposition politicians received wide support from Malays AND non-Malays. A sizable Opposition constantly puts the BN in a bad light by exposing scandal after scandal.

Within this political climate, a series of events occurred in 1987 that would be used to justify the launch of Ops Lalang.

Here is the chronology of events, contrasted with present day events:

1987 – Trying to recoup Malay support after the fallout of the UMNO elections, Team A UMNO politicians played to the “Malay gallery” by championing “Malay causes”. Many official decisions were implemented that put pressure on non-Malays, especially over economic, cultural, language and educational issues.

2010 – Trying to recoup Malay support after the Malay votes had been split, UMNO politicians played to the “Malay gallery” by championing “Malay causes”. However, due to Najib’s doctrine of 1Malaysia, the more extremist views have been subcontracted to Ibrahim Ali’s ultra-Malay rights group, PERKASA. Many strident speeches were made that put pressure on non-Malays, especially over economic issues.

1987 – 5 mosques in Pahang were burnt down by arsonists between 29 and 31 August 1987. There was also the alleged conversion of 66,000 Muslims to Christianity as claimed by Haji Yusof Rawa.

2010 – Several churches, a mosque, a surau and a gurdwara were attacked following the “Allah” controversy. UMNO bloggers claim that there is a Christian conspiracy to convert Muslims, which would dilute Malay power in Malaysia.

1987 – Anwar Ibrahim, the then-Education Minister, appointed 100 headmasters and senior assistants who were not Chinese-educated to Chinese vernacular schools. This act was condemned Chinese politicians across the political divide and a non-partisan group comprising MCA-GERAKAN-DAP politicians held a joint meeting to protest the school appointments.

2010 – MCA and other non-UMNO politicians and groups openly oppose PERKASA’s strident communalist demands and denouncements of Malaysian Chinese. MCA VP Donald Lim calls for a Chinese version of PERKASA to counter the almost daily assaults coming from Ibrahim Ali’s group, and suggested the non-partisan KLSCAH take the lead.

1987 – Najib (part of Mahathir’s team A) leads a rally of 10,000 which included banners saying: “SOAK IT (KRIS) WITH CHINESE BLOOD”. UMNO announced another rally to be attended by half a million members. It was feared that this second rally would spark a second May13.

2010 – A 10,000-strong “Melayu Bangkit” gathering is planned by PERKASA and GERTAK with Mahathir delivering the keynote address. The provocative date of May 13 was picked to “remind Malays what could happen if they did not unite”.

The similarities end here (so far) Let’s hope the similarities don’t continue any further. If they did, then it would follow the events below:

1987 – The 2nd rally was cancelled by Mahathir who immediately lauched Ops Lalang. There were mass ISA arrests of mainly Chinese and/or Opposition politicians and activists. Also included in the sweep were UMNO Team B supporters, pasar malam hawkers, rubber tappers, vegetable sellers, saw millers, farmers, pastors, and insurance agents. The following year, the Printing Presses and Publishing Act muzzled the press with strict licensing requirements and threats of jail for publishing “false news”.

In a blog posting last year, I had floated the possibility of another May13 / Ops Lalang being staged in order to keep the BN in power despite falling popularity. I made that speculation based on the events at that time. Thankfully, it did not come true in 2009. It has yet to come true in 2010, although the signs are even clearer now.

Let’s all hope it won’t happen until the next General Elections when the rakyat will have a chance to tell Hishammudin what we think about his “False News” committee!

For more information on Ops Lalang, read:

Malaysia – Economic Recession, Ethnic Relations And Political Freedom

1988 Malaysian Constitutional Crisis

27th of October, 1987

The Real Story Of May 13 – Part 1

2 Responses to “Are we heading towards another Ops Lalang?”
  1. pinsysu says:

    sounds terrible … they know they’ll lose GE13. they might juz do anything juz to hang on to power. God pls help Msia.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: