PETALING JAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said he should not be the only one to take responsibility over the 1987 mass arrests of dissidents under the Internal Security Act (ISA), saying his Cabinet colleagues then who included Najib Razak should also take part of the blame.
“As a member of the government, he (Najib) is also responsible,” said Mahathir, in an apparent response to the prime minister’s recent speech in which he blamed the Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman for Operation Lalang, a major crackdown which saw more than 100 activists and politicians detained without trial.
In 1987, Najib was the culture, youth and sports minister in Mahathir’s cabinet.
Speaking to civil servants in Perak on Thursday, Najib questioned Mahathir for calling him a dictator.
“Since when have I been cruel? Who arrested people under Operasi Lalang? Najib or that 93-year-old man?” he had asked.
But Mahathir said the decision to arrest people under ISA was a “collective responsibility of the government”.
“If he had thought I was doing something wrong, he was quite free to criticise me or object,” Mahathir, who served as prime minister for 22 years, told a forum with members of the disabled community here today.
Operation Lalang has frequently been raised by Mahathir’s opponents in Barisan Nasional, who questioned the former leader’s promise of political reforms under PH.
Last year, Mahathir said he accepted the blame for the arrests, but said it was the call of the police to detain activists under ISA.