KUALA LUMPUR: Suaram adviser Kua Kia Soong today told Anwar Ibrahim not to run away from responsibility for the events that led to the infamous Operasi Lalang.
While the then Umno Youth leader Najib Razak played a role, the responsibility for sending unqualified administrators to Chinese schools, which sparked the protests culminating in the arrest of 106 people, lay with Anwar, the then education minister, said the former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee.
And the responsibility for launching the arrests and detention, said Kua, rested with Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the then home minister and prime minister.
Anwar was the education minister from 1986 to 1991.
Kua said the events that led to the arrests were part of the “contrived controversies” of those in power.
Kua was one of those picked up and detained under ISA – which has since been abolished – in October 1987, in what came to be known as Ops Lalang.
Anwar in a witness statement in court recently said that the 1987 arrests were the result of highly-charged racial statements made by Umno Youth and MCA Youth leaders.
“The tensions caused by MCA and Umno Youth then resulted in Operasi Lalang,” he said, in a defamation suit brought by Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin against Red Shirts leader Jamal Yunos, on Jan 24.
Kua said that Anwar had “at a stroke” placed the responsibility on Najib, and absolved both himself and Dr Mahathir of blame.
He said his 1992 book “Malaysian Political Realities” gives a clearer picture of what transpired then.
In the introduction to the book, DAP’s Lim Kit Siang had written: “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, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, claims in international forums that Malaysia enjoys, is a press which is only ‘free’ to distort and suppress political realities in Malaysia.”
Kua said in the book, he had noted that it was Anwar, with the “connivance” of Dr Mahathir, who made the decision to send non-qualified administrators to Chinese schools, leading to protests by the Chinese community “and which resulted in orchestrated tension that led to Ops Lalang”.
He had also noted another “contrived controversy” – that between Umno and MCA in October 1986 over a pribumi versus immigrants issue and the question of citizen’s rights – in the book.
This controversy, he said, was by no means the only one orchestrated by Umno in 1986. There was also the one about the “social contract” created by Datuk Abdullah Ahmad of “Ketuanan Melayu” fame, he added.
“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 by Umno.
“Through all these years, there is 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 DSAI (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) is familiar with these ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ within Umno.
“The DAP was also in the committee which opposed this unjust and orchestrated move to send unqualified administrators to the Chinese school. 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 Ops Lalang.
Kua said while it was all right for Anwar and Dr Mahathir to ask for forgiveness from the victims of Ops Lalang and the Chinese community for “orchestrating that racial tension”, they should not distort the facts of history.