Twenty-five years ago yesterday, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad struck fear into the nation in an unprecedented scale through Operasi Lalang – the detention without trial of 106 social workers, social activists and politicians.
Liew Chin Tong, ANU alumnus and opposition member of parliament finds poetic justice in this dirty deed:
A quarter of a century later, as we look back at Dr Mahathir’s mass detention camp of 1987 while on the cusp a possible change of government, there is a sense of poetic justice that Operation Lalang “united” Barisan Nasional’s opponents and gave them a steely resolve to oppose like never before.
Lim Guan Eng, Mat Sabu and many others were young activists at a time when opposition parties and movements were against Barisan Nasional for very different reasons, and often contradictory causes.
But in Kamunting, whatever their causes, they were all behind bars as human beings and as Malaysians for an extended period. They came to realise that Barisan Nasional benefited from mobilising racial and religious tensions to strike a blow against its political foes.
Liew Chin Tong himself, the majority of the younger parliamentarians in opposition today, the younger civil society activists, in fact the Reformasi Generation were all also a Mahathir “creation.”
As another rebel of the 1990s, Alanis Morissette, sings, “Isn’t it ironic!”