Operation Lalang (Operasi Lalang in Malay), which means “Operation Weeding” was a major crackdown launched by the Royal Malaysian Police in 1987 to prevent the repeat of racial riots in the country. It was the biggest operation of its kind under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad after racial tensions had reached a dangerous level, forcing the government to act.
The operation saw the arrest of 119 people, including opposition politicians, activists, students, intellectuals and others. News media like The Star, Sin Chew Jit Poh and Watan were among four newspapers that had their publishing licenses revoked. However, many believed it was an excuse by Mahathir to silence critics through draconian measures, whose 22 years iron-fist rule began in 1981 and ended in 2003.
In truth, the crackdown was engineered after a split within the dominant ruling party – United Malays National Organization (UMNO) – as a result of party election in 1986-1987. Team-A, led by Mahathir was challenged by Team-B led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Even though Mahathir won narrowly, the party was declared illegal and dissolved, leading to the formation of today’s UMNO Baru .
The political drama also saw the deputy president of MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association), Lee Kim Sai, raising the issue of vernacular Chinese school personnel where 100 non-Chinese educated staffs were deployed to Chinese-medium primary schools. The protest eventually involved a call to boycott in Chinese schools for 3 days, only to be called off at the eleventh hour.
Orchestrated by Mahathir, UMNO Youth Chief Najib Razak retaliated with a Malay rally in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur, where Najib had threatened to soak a “Keris (Malay dagger)” in Chinese blood, evoking the fear of a repeat of the May 13, 1969 racial riots. To make matters worse, a Malay soldier known as “Prebet Adam” ran amok with an M16 rifle, killing a Malay and injured two others in Chow Kit.
On October 27, 1987, PM Mahathir, who was also the Minister of Home Affairs, launched the Operation Lalang under the pretext of defusing racial tension. He argued the country was facing an economic recession and high unemployment, hence could not afford racial riots. His loyalist, Inspector General of Police Haniff Omar, said the operation was for the sake of national security.
Opposition leaders like Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh were among those arrested and locked up without trial under the now-defunct Internal Security Act (ISA). Interestingly, MCA Lee Kim Sai, having been tipped off, left for Australia for a few months before the crackdown began. Of course, Najib was never arrested, even though IGP Haniff said the UMNO rally was the reason the crackdown was launched.
Fast forward 36 years later, Malaysia is again facing the prospect of a repeat of bloody racial riots today. Anwar Ibrahim, the education minister responsible for the appointment of non-Mandarin educated principals and senior assistants to vernacular schools in 1987, is now the 10th Prime Minister. Najib Razak, the 6th Prime Minister, is currently serving 12 years’ jail for corruption related to 1MDB scandal.
Mahathir, now 98 years old, continues stirring up racial and religion sentiments among the Malays that they have lost power to the “Chinese, Christians and Communists”. Joining him are religious extremist Hadi Awang, president of Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS – Parti Islam Se-Malaysia) and racist bigot Muhyiddin Yassin, president of Bersatu (Malaysian United Indigenous Party).
Unlike 1987, when Operation Lalang was designed by Mahathir to get rid of all critics and opposition to stay in power, Anwar is today facing the real danger of losing power due to racial riots being inflamed by opposition Perikatan Nasional, comprising PAS and Bersatu. While the actors are playing different roles, the storyline remains the same – use racial and religious cards to get power.
And unlike 1987, when Mahathir instructed MCA and UMNO to start a political drama to divert attention from a divided UMNO, Anwar is today leading a Unity Government comprising multi-racial Perikatan Nasional and UMNO-dominated Barisan Nasional coalitions. In fact, unlike 1987, it’s the opposition who attacks non-Malays almost on a daily basis today.
In 1987, Mahathir controlled the narrative and created the perception that Malays were being threatened by ethnic Chinese. Today, Anwar is being controlled by the narrative and the perception cooked up by PAS and Bersatu that Malays are being threatened by the Chinese. The question is whether Anwar has the balls to decisively and boldly launch “Operasi Lalang 2” to save the country from disaster.
Yes, the time has come for the Anwar-led Unity Government to make some tough decisions after relentless provocations and threats by radicals to seize power. What premier Mahathir and police chief Haniff said 36 years ago, which were arguably excuses to justify Operation Lalang, has today become so real that a crackdown on the Opposition should be seriously considered.
Malaysia is facing high inflation due to geopolitical reason, with upcoming economic recession and high unemployment on the table. The national security is under threat – for real – as racial riots being drummed by Perikatan Nasional will see investors, both domestic and foreign, fleeing and never returned for a very long time. This is not the time for pussyfooting.
Ordering security forces to be on alert for possible unrest stemming from irresponsible parties playing up racial and religious sentiments, PM Anwar has today said his government would not allow any statements that could threaten harmony. He said – “Any attempt made by anyone to pit one race against another, or to increase the racial and religious temperature in this country will not be permitted.”
Meanwhile, Inspector-General of Police Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani, in response to the premier’s warning, claims that the security level is under control. Hilariously, the police chief urged any individual with information on those committing such offences to report the matter immediately to police. What grass has he been smoking lately? Has he just woken up from slumberland?
Anwar can talk till the kingdom comes, but it will be nothing but empty rhetoric if his own lieutenant, Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution, is sleeping on the job and cannot control the security forces. Where was IGP Acryl Sani when former backdoor PM Muhyiddin spread fake news that Christians were working with “Jews to Christianise” Malaysia during the Nov 2022 election campaign?
And where was the police chief, an errand boy promoted by Bersatu during Muhyiddin regime, when Abdul Hadi Awang falsely accused non-Muslim and non-Malays as being the root of corruption, only to keep his silence after Muhyiddin was arrested and charged for corruption involving RM92.5 billion in the Covid-19 Stimulus Programme?
What type of information that the clueless and incompetent IGP Acryl Sani needs when every Tom, Dick and hamster knew how PAS president Hadi deliberately challenged and ridiculed multiple royal decrees, including Sultan Terengganu’s latest order prohibiting politicians from using mosques to deliver religious lectures or “ceramahs” – which are actually political propaganda?
It’s a matter of time before PAS extremists, already testing the water with an army of fanatics proudly flashing swords, spears and shields as if they were on a Jihad crusade against Islam enemies during the ancient Medieval Age, launch a violent “Iranian Revolution” to topple the Malay Sultans and the democratically-elected multi-racial government. So, what has the police done to protect the Malay Rulers?
Heck, power-hungry Hadi has even perverted his right to “overthrow” Anwar government, claiming that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s (King) decree for a unity government cannot stop a coup d’etat. Isn’t this a national security threat, as proven when a local group involved with the ISIS terrorist group was spreading propaganda on the social media to take over the country?
Perhaps the police force can explain why there has been no arrest despite overwhelming “death threats” on the director and screenwriter of the film “Mentega Terbang”, as well as threats on his family members. Even Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh has been accused by Perikatan Nasional of proselytising Christianity to Muslim youth.
Mahathir, desperate to protect his legacy and families’ interest, could use this Sunday’s “Malay Proclamation” rally to spark the flame of Malay anger, the same way he used “Malay Dignity Congress” in Oct 2019 to provoke the Malays. This could be followed by PAS and Bersatu’s rally to incite racial riots in the coming days – a plot to destabilize and eventually topple Anwar government.
The Star newspaper, owned by MCA, along with other news media has already started undermining the unity government with dubious polls and news. Social media like TikTok, Facebook and Twitter were being weaponised by Perikatan Nasional to spread disinformation and fake news. The goal is to get rid of Anwar so that the corrupt politicians can return to power.
Muhyiddin has been slapped with 7 charges of corruption and money laundering. His party accounts have been frozen. Wolf in sheep’s clothing Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, struggling without free flow of funds as opposition, could see the party’s account frozen too for money laundering. And Mahathir wants to piggyback on both Muhyiddin and Hadi to revive his appeal among the Malay community.
Like it or not, the prime minister cannot play nice forever in his effort to win praise. He should realize that he can never win the contest to become more Islamic than the PAS Islamist party. He should show who’s the boss and his willingness to use the power in his possession to guarantee national security. He has to send shivers down the spine of extremists determined to destroy the country.
Obviously, there were concerns that any action against the untouchable PAS leaders like snake oil salesman Hadi could turn him into a martyr. But it won’t matter if Anwar loses power and the unity government collapses because the indecisive government could not decide how to best handle the radicals, who keep pushing the buttons to start racial riots.
Source : Finance Twitter