Mahathir's attempt to distance himself from the ISA crackdown in 1987 raises the ire of a former detainee, who is demanding an apology from the 'mastermind'.
(Free Malaysia Today) - A long-time political foe has accused former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a medical doctor by training, of now specialising in the art of spinning untruths.
DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang took the 84-year-old statesman to task for blaming the police for the Operasi Lalang crackdown in 1987, one of the many black spots during Mahathir’s 22-year reign.
Lim, one of those hauled up under the Internal Security Act dragnet, was responding to Mahathir’s quotes in the book, “Doctor M: Operation Malaysia – Conversations with Mahathir Mohamad” by Tom Plate.
According to the book, Mahathir was furious with the police’s action.
“Well, I would have handled it differently, except that the police wanted to do these things because they say it is necessary…
“I actually met all of the opposition members (beforehand) and assured them that they would not be arrested. And you know what the police did? They arrested them. My credibility is gone,” he was quoted as saying.
However, Lim said that Mahathir was suffering from selective memory.
“Not only is he suffering from selective memory, he is spinning untruths about his misdeeds in his 22 years as prime minister,” he added.
Lim said that he never met Mahathir then nor did the latter give him an assurance that he would not be arrested during the Oct 27 clampdown.
“Although a day earlier I had spoken in Parliament in the 1988 budget debate warning of escalation of racial tensions and calling on all political parties ‘to agree to a one-year moratorium where no racial, language, cultural or religious issues will be created or raised for every Malaysian to concentrate on the national priority of achieving economic recovery and growth’,” he added.
The Ipoh Timor MP challenged Mahathir to name the opposition leaders he had met and assured.
“It is unworthy of Mahathir to ‘pass the buck’ to the police, as he not only defended the initial 106 arrests, he also exercised his powers as home minister to formally issue two-year ISA detention orders for 49 Malaysians, including seven DAP MPs,” he said.
Lim accused Mahathir of always making the false and baseless claim that DAP MPs were not arrested because they were MPs or for their political beliefs, but for “trying to stir racial unrest”.
“For instance, Mahathir told Asiaweek (Nov 11, 1988): ‘A few are still under detention because they refuse to give up stirring racial hatred. (Lim) was arrested not because he was leader of the opposition but because he was stirring racial tension in the country…They will be detained until they come around to thinking it is not the right thing to do…’,” he said.
Umno power-seekers to blame
According to Lim, the real culprits of the tensions were left completely free while none of those detained deserved to be behind bars.
“And not a single police officer interviewed me to secure my agreement to purportedly ‘give up stirring racial hatred’ before my release in April 1989,” he said.
“This applied to all the six DAP MPs detained – Karpal Singh, Lim Guan Eng, Dr Tan Seng Giaw, the late P Patto, the late V David and Lau Dak Kee – who were released without the so-called ‘come around to thinking it is not the right thing to do’, when they had done nothing wrong in the first place.
“In fact, the personal, petty and vindictive nature in the misuse of an already very oppressive ISA was further highlighted by the fact that Guan Eng and I were the last two of the 49 detainees to be released in April 1989 – when the various batches of releases started in June 1988,” he added.
Conceding that there were racial tensions at the time, Lim, however, blamed the power-seekers in Umno for it.