Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 27 October 2020

‘No time for love if they come in the morning

No time to show fear or for tears in the morning

No time for goodbyes, no time to ask why

And the wail of the children is the cry of the morning’

(Adapted by Anne Munro-Kua from Jack Warshaw)



Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser, 23 Dec 2019

Anyone familiar with the events leading to Operation Lalang in 1987 could see from the start where this latest controversy over the introduction of khat calligraphy was leading to. And now, on cue with his mischievous 1987 script, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has once again warned the Chinese education group Dong Jiao Zong that if they carry out their protest congress on 28 December against the introduction of khat calligraphy lessons in vernacular schools, the Malay community might respond by organising its own congress demanding the shutting down of vernacular schools.



Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser, 25 Jan 2018

Testifying at the hearing of Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah’s defamation suit against Sungai Besar Umno division chief Jamal Md Yunos, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (DSAI), the former Education Minister during Ops Lalang has claimed that the infamous Operasi Lalang resulted from the discord between MCA Youth and Umno Youth. At a stroke, he placed the responsibility on the UMNO Youth leader, Najib at the time and thus absolved both himself, the then Education Minister and Dr Mahathir, the then PM.

Those who respect the importance of truth in historical accounts, no matter how distasteful it may be, begin with discerning accurate facts and the related sequence of events. In this process, for facts before the advent of Google, Malaysians can be assisted by my record of the events in my 1992 title, ‘Malaysian Political Realities’. In the Introduction to my book, Leader of the Opposition Lim Kit Siang wrote:

“Dr Kua Kia Soong has aptly chosen the title of his book ‘Malaysian Political realities’…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 Mohamed, claims in international forums that Malaysia enjoys, is a press which is only ‘free’ to distort and suppress political realities in Malaysia.”

Contrived controversy between UMNO & MCA, October 1986

The first chapter in my 1992 title is called: ‘History and the Pribumi: Fruitless quest for the unholy grail’, which is a comment on the rather contrived controversy between UMNO and MCA during October 1986. It is important to note the date that the controversy was contrived, namely, October 1986.

In this article, I was at pains to point out that “the issue of whether any community is genuinely ‘pribumi’ or ‘immigrant’ has absolutely no significance to the question of peoples’ rights.” This controversy 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.

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 is familiar with these “Standard Operating Procedures” within UMNO. The mob which attacked us during the Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor in 1996 was no different. Who should bear the responsibility for that shameful event then? Saifuddin or the UMNO Youth chief at the time Zahid Hamidi or DSAI himself?

Orchestrated controversy in Chinese schools, October 1987

Nevertheless, in Chapter 12 of my book, ‘OCTOBER 1987: The Furore in the Chinese Schools’, it was the Education Minister, namely, DSAI with the connivance of the PM at the time, Dr Mahathir, who made the decision to send non-qualified administrators to the Chinese schools. Whereas the contrived controversy over ‘Pribumi vs Immigrants’ by UMNO Youth and MCA Youth was in October 1986, it was the Chinese schools controversy in October 1987 which caused the Chinese community to protest against the unjust move and which resulted in orchestrated tension that led to Ops Lalang.

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.

Certainly, the UMNO Youth leader at the time, Najib Razak was one of the UMNO firebrands who were at the Jalan Raja Muda stadium where racist banners were displayed just before Ops Lalang was launched. But responsibility for sending the unqualified administrators to the Chinese schools rests on DSAI while responsibility for launching the arrests and detention rests squarely on the Home Minister and Prime Minister at the time, Dr Mahathir.

Yes, you can be forgiven but…

Having left UMNO, both DSAI and Dr Mahathir can ask for forgiveness from the victims of Ops Lalang and the Chinese community for orchestrating that racial tension which gave Dr Mahathir the excuse to launch Ops Lalang, the precursor to his assault on the Judiciary.

One thing they must never do is to distort the facts of history. As Noam Chomsky has warned us:

“Younger people who are being indoctrinated into the contemporary system of falsification – they really have to do some research to find out what is the truth…”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau goes even further by saying, “The falsification of history has done more to impede human development than any one thing known to mankind!”


Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 2 November 2016

Like Donald Trump in the US, ‘Sorry’ seems to be the hardest word for authoritarian populists to say. At least Dr Mahathir now admits and regrets that detainees under Operation Lalang were tortured. That is the first admission by the former Prime Minister and Home Minister that torture took place under his watch. By ‘torture’ he probably refers to physical torture that Joshua Jamaluddin, Irene Xavier and others were subjected to during Ops Lalang. Let me remind him that the International Red Cross considered our sixty days of solitary confinement as mental torture.

By this admission, Dr Mahathir must now be held accountable for the actions of the police who executed the tortures and so must the former IGP who has valiantly claimed that he was the one responsible for the detentions. Let me also remind them that Ops Lalang was not the only period when ISA detainees were tortured so there should really be a Royal Commission of Enquiry into all the cases of torture carried out under the various administrations using the ISA.

Torture Under The ISA: Pre-1987

Prior to the mass arrests of October 1987, human rights organisations and international missions including Amnesty International, had contended that the conditions under which detainees are held are deplorable; that long periods of interrogation are tantamount to mental torture and emotional deprivation. An International Panel of Lawyers who visited Malaysia in 1982 concluded in their report that:

“The cells lack the most basic of comforts, being of cement with no linen or furniture. They are badly lit and ventilated and are infested with insects, especially mosquitoes. The detainees, who are kept in solitary confinement, are deprived of any basic hygiene needs and are not allowed out of their cells except for interrogation.” (Report by the International Mission of Lawyers, 1983)

A 1982 Malaysian Bar Council Memorandum to the Government noted that detainees are “invariably held in solitary confinement which can have very serious psychiatric consequences”. The Bar Council added that detainees complained of round-the-clock interrogation, causing “severe mental and physical stress”.

The tortures undergone by ISA detainees during the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies and Eighties are well known to those who know these former ISA detainees. Their experiences are slowly but surely coming to light, mainly in Chinese publications. I have highlighted before a hitherto unpublished statement by “political prisoners of Kawasan A, B, C”, dated 1 May 1969, a historic document released from Batu Gajah Detention Camp which we need not go into here. It reveals the bestiality that the torturers are capable of.

Torture during Operation Lalang: 1987

As a victim of the ISA under Operation Lalang from 1987 to 1989, I can vouch for the mental torture that we went through during the first sixty days. Such conditions are far worse than those accorded convicted criminals. Most oppressive of all is the terror of lawlessness under the hands of torturers who are not accountable to the public. Yeshua Jamaluddin was detained for being a Malay Christian convert. His affidavit at his Habeas Corpus hearing in October 1988 should be an eye-opener:

“I was not allowed to sleep for days at a stretch and was warned that I would not get any food if I did not cooperate. One Inspector Yusoff also threatened to disturb my girlfriend if I did not give any information. I was assaulted by Inspectors Yusoff, Zainuddin, Ayub and another officer on a number of occasions. On one occasion I was knocked to the ground and injured my back. Since then, I have been passing blood in my urine and have been suffering from pains in my lower back constantly…

“On another occasion during interrogation, Inspector Yusoff forced me to strip naked and to enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Inspector Yusoff also forced me to crawl on the floor in a naked state…”

“A police constable forced me to stand on one leg with both my arms outstretched holding my slippers. He made me remain in this position for two hours. He then called in a woman constable and her young daughter and asked them to look at me saying: “This Malay is not aware of who he is. He changed his religion. He has no shame!” ( Kua, K.S.,”445 Days Behind The Wire” 1999: 194)

Similar charges of physical torture under the hands of Special Branch personnel can be seen in the affidavits by Chow Chee Keong and Irene Xavier at their respective habeas Corpus applications.

Torture Under The ISA: Post-1987

The March 1989 seating of the Malaysian Parliament heard this shocking disclosure of torture inflicted on an ISA detainee, Abdul Rahman Hamzah, a former Sarawak State Assemblyman:

“I was tortured by various means…at any one time there were always three officers present but on one occasion, seven officers tortured me by kicking, punching, slapping and by hitting me with broom sticks. I lost consciousness a few times.

“I was asked to duck walk, frog jump, crawl all over the room, corridor and bathroom, urinate like a dog, given the air-condition treatment after a cold shower, forced to do hundreds of push-ups…

“A tin was used to cover my head and at the same time the tin was hit with a stick. The sound of the hitting of the tin deafened one’s hearing and cut and bruised my head, cheeks and ears. This caused my head and upper face to swell.

“My interrogators would sometimes lift my body by throttling my throat with their hands and at the same time forcing me up. When this was done, my throat protruded and saliva would come out of my mouth. At the same time I was being hit over the cheeks and jaw areas…They twisted my wrist and body round several times before swinging me violently against the wall. I was forced to do mock sexual acts before my sneering torturers who also used stretched elastic bands to flick at my ears and nipples…My head was pushed into a filthy squat toilet bowl while it was flushed repeatedly…I was also poked with a floor mop used for cleaning the toilet…”

Abdul Rahman and also other detainees have concurred that:

“The interrogators would appear to be possessed by the devil. When they interrogated me, their lips, hands and fingers would quiver. At times like this, I was frightened as I felt I was in the hands of people who had lost their reason.” (ibid)

Recent Torture Under The ISA

The brutality inflicted on the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim by the Inspector General of Police himself in 1998 has been well-publicised not only over the internet but also in the mainstream press. The IGP has admitted that much but while the victim of that brutality is languishing in jail, the torturer has been enjoying precious freedom all this time! And he, of all persons has the gall to say recently that we, “the Lalang had to be weeded out!”

The Royal Commission of Inquiry found Rahim Noor (IGP at the time) culpable in the beating of Anwar but no other members of the police were found to be complicit, despite the fact that several senior police officers were present in the room during the beating and they had not come forward with this evidence. The Prime Minister who was also then Home Minister was not found to be culpable by the Commission even though the police force is under the charge of the Home Minister.

In February 1999, Mior Abdul Razak bin Yahya released an affidavit stating that he was threatened and abused while in police custody in 1998, which resulted in him falsely confessing to having sexual relations with the former Deputy Prime Minister. Abdul Malek Hussein also filed police reports and released an affidavit stating that he was tortured physically, including being beaten unconscious and being forced to drink urine while he was detained under the ISA in 1998.

Dr Munawar Anees’ harrowing experience under the ISA can be seen in his 36-page statutory declaration which is available on the web (Search: Affidavit/Statutory Declaration of Dr.Munawar Anees). This is a cleaned up selection to show the depths of depravity and inhumanity of the Malaysian Special Branch:

“ By the end of the second day the long hours of interrogation, the lack of sleep, and the lack of decent food had left me completely disoriented and exhausted…Lying there curled up in that foetal position I could only replay in my mind what my captors had repeatedly drummed into me, the sex acts they asked me to act out, the vulnerable position I was in…

“ One of the four screamed at me to stand up. I did so. All four came from behind the table and surrounded me in a very aggressive manner as if they were about to assault me. One of them literally had his face in mine. They all screamed at me, in my ears, loudly, again and again and again that I had (had sexual intercourse) with Anwar. They screamed and screamed and screamed, in my ears, at my face, at me, again and again, over and over asking me to say ‘yes’ until I gave in and broke down saying yes, yes. They stopped screaming. That was what they wanted to hear. They were not interested that it was untrue.”

Dr M must now be accountable for the tortures

We call upon SUHAKAM to bring all these torturers to book and to hold the IGP, Home Minister and Prime Minister at the time responsible for these tortures that were carried out in the name of so-called ‘national security’. The National Human Rights Commission has sufficient evidence to start with. We demand a full inquiry that will not let off any torturer who has inflicted pain on any detainee. At the same time, we call upon all former political detainees to lodge a report of their detention with SUHAKAM so that our nation can know the full facts of this ISA reign of terror.


Ever since his forced retirement as Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir has been trying in vain to claim that Operation Lalang was not his doing but that of the police. This attempt at whitewashing his record seems all the more urgent since he has joined the Opposition. In his haste to pull the wool over the eyes of those who may not remember Operation Lalang by blaming it on the police, Mahathir has overlooked something that is so elementary to the ISA, namely, that it is the Home Minister (ie. Mahathir at the time) who signed the two-year detention order after the first sixty days of solitary confinement. When he signed those 2-year detention orders near the end of 1988, he would have noticed a stark fact – all the detainees were Opposition leaders and other dissidents while all the BN detainees had been conveniently released during the sixty days! The IGP didn’t sign those detention orders – Mahathir did!

This living in denial is not surprising since Operation Lalang was Mahathir’s worst abuse of power during his 23-year rule. It happened to be his most desperate attempt at clinging to power. We know that 1987 was a time during his term when he was faced with the biggest threat to his rule, with Team B under Tengku Razaleigh challenging the results of the UMNO elections. A court decision in Team B’s favour would have meant the end of Mahathir’s grasp on power.

In the run up to Operation Lalang and before the assault on the judiciary resulting in the sacking of the Lord President and several other Supreme Court judges, the ruling party had orchestrated a tense situation in the country by creating various “sensitive” issues involving the sending of non-Mandarin qualified administrators to the Chinese schools, conversion of Muslims to Christianity and even threatened to organize a 500,000-people UMNO rally in the capital. All this was to justify unleashing ‘Operation Lalang’ to deal with the so-called “enemies” identified by the state.

Dr Mahathir cannot escape from the historical records in, among others, my 445 Days under Operation Lalang, the DAP’s The Real Reason, CARPA’s Tangled Web, Amnesty International’s Operation Lalang: Detention Without Trial under ISA, K.Das/Suaram’s The Why? Papers.

This is what the Ops Lalang detainees (including myself, Karpal Singh, Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng, Mohamad Sabu, Nasir Hashim) said in our Declaration on the first anniversary of our detention:

“The year since this dastardly ‘Operation Lalang’ has been an outrage for all freedom-loving and democratic-minded Malaysians. The Mahathir Administration has made even more brutal attacks on the democratic institutions in this country. The doctrine of separation of powers has been dealt a serious blow by the threats to the Judiciary not only through legislative changes but also by the scandalous suspension of five Supreme Court judges as well as the Lord President. The subsequent dismissal of the Lord President and two of the judges demonstrated the depths to which the Mahathir Administration is prepared to go to stay in power. Civil liberties have been further eroded by new changes to the law. It is quite clear, therefore, that this so-called ‘Operation Lalang’ was a signal for calculated repression and intimidation of the Malaysian people and to divert attention from the irresolvable problems confronting the ruling party and coalition.”

Judging from the comments by eminent persons both local and international, we can see clearly who they held responsibile for this dastardly affair:


  1. The Tunku, Malaysia’s First Prime Minister:

 “UMNO was facing a break-up. The Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s hold on the party appeared critical when election rigging was alleged to have given him a very narrow victory over Tengku Razaleigh. The case alleging irregularities brought by UMNO members was pending in court. If the judgement went against him he would have no choice but to step down. So he had to find a way out of his predicament. A national crisis had to be created to bring UMNO together as a united force to fight a common enemy – and the imaginary enemy in this case was the Chinese community…It’s a police state when you can go and arrest people at will without giving any reason other than they think they are a security risk … I do not concede Dr. Mahathir’s contention that his measures are predicated solely on the extreme tension between Malays and Chinese last month which brought the country close to serious racial rioting…It’s not a question of Chinese against the Government but his own party, UMNO who are against him”.

( K.Das/ SUARAM: ‘The White paper on the October Affair and the Why? Papers’, SUARAM Petaling Jaya 1989: 10)


  1. Tun Hussein Onn (Malaysia’s third Prime Minister):

“The ISA is a measure aimed at preventing the resurgence of the earlier communist threat to the nation … During my term of office as Prime Minister, I made every effort to ensure that the pledges of my predecessors, that the powers under the ISA would not be misused to curb lawful political opposition and democratic citizen activity, were respected”.

(Affidavit by Tun Hussein Onn on behalf of Dr.Chandra Muzaffar at the latter’s habeas corpus application in November, 1987).

  1. Amnesty International:

“On the basis of all the available evidence, including the White Paper and subsequent discussions with government authorities held in October 1988, Amnesty International has concluded that the government has not substantiated this claim, and has failed to show that any of the forty detainees served with renewable two-year detention orders at the end of the investigation period had in any way used or advocated violence.”

(AI: Operation Lalang, Detention Without Trial Under the ISA, 20 December 1988, p.25)

  1. Inter-Parliamentary Union:

“The delegation considers that, according to the norms of international public law, the two objectives are not incompatible with one another and that the concept of national security is in no way superior or opposed to the principles of human rights…. The delegation is thus led to note that in Malaysia, even without a state of exception having been proclaimed, the Executive is exercising powers which are normally within the purview of the Judiciary….”

(IPU: Report on the mission of 21-27 November 1988, p.25)

  1. International Commission of Jurists:

“The Internal Security Act has become a tool for silencing political opposition. It has allowed the governments of both Malaysia and Singapore to intimidate its citizens by making improper arrests based on unsubstantiated claims of communist or other subversive activity. Detention under the ISA facilitates the use of torture and mistreatment during interrogation, as governments are not publicly accountable for their actions under ISA.”

(ICJ: Briefing Paper for the Sub-Commission on Malaysia and Singapore, August 1988, p16)

  1. Asiawatch:

“…the government offered no evidence that those arrested engaged in violence or illegal activity; in fact, many are well-known for their efforts to promote racial harmony. In this respect, we note that most of the remaining detainees have been declared ‘prisoners of conscience’ by Amnesty International. Moreover, the government handed down long-term detention orders sixty days after the initial arrests, and well after the passing of last year’s racial tensions. Thus, even if one were to argue that the initial arrests were necessary to preserve public order – and Asiawatch does not concede that this was the case – the government cannot currently contend in good faith that there exists the kind of extraordinary circumstances that might fairly justify denial of the rights to a trial.” (Asiawatch: Testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights, July 1988, p.9)

  1. European Parliament:

“Regretting, in particular, that the detainees include the Leader and several members of the Opposition, as well as Christian pastors and Research Director of the Malaysian Chinese Resource and Research Centre; Calls on the Malaysian Government to institute an independent enquiry by the judiciary into the arrest and into the use of the Internal Security Act in general; Urges the Malaysian Government to release the remaining detainees as a measure of reconciliation between the races and between the parties; …”

(European Parliament Resolution on Political Prisoners in Malaysia, 7 July 1988)

  1. Australian Parliamentarians:

“We, the undersigned members of the Australian Parliament, wish to express to you our concern over the observance of accepted human rights standards in Malaysia. We regard the laws under which these people were arrested as unworthy of a democratic state and we believe that the continued detention of these prisoners of conscience to be a gross violation of human rights”.

(Letter by 105 Australian Parliamentarians to the Malaysian Prime Minister, 17 March 1988)

  1. The Asian Wall Street Journal:

“Dr.Mahathir’s chosen measures are not worthy of a country that hopes to position itself as a forward-looking democracy … Dr.Mahathir is no doubt correct in his diagnosis that Malaysia has big problems. The fundamental problem, however, is not that people are protesting. It is that many have legitimate grievances that their government apparently wishes not to hear.”

(AWSJ editorial, ‘Road to Dictatorship’, 2-11-87).

  1. The Malaysian Bar Council:

“With these ministerial preventive detention orders made on so many individuals, including the Leader of the Opposition and other prominent opposition Members of Parliament, I cannot help wondering how our government could continue calling itself a parliamentary democracy … The solemn promise given in Parliament in 1960 by the then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak … that this law will never be used to stifle political dissent in this country appears to have been breached “.

(The President of the Bar Council, Param Cumaraswamy, quoted in The Asian Wall Street Journal, 28-12-87).

Apologise to all who were tortured as well

Dr Mahathir must also take responsibility for all the allegations of torture made by Operation Lalang victims. The sixty days of solitary confinement are already a gross example of mental torture. Dr Nasir Hashim, Chow Chee Keong, Irene Xavier among others have graphically described being physically tortured by the Special Branch while under solitary confinement during the first sixty days. This is Yeshua Jamaluddin’s affidavit at his habeas corpus hearing in October 1988:

 “On one occasion, I was knocked to the ground and I injured my back. Since then, I have been passing blood in my urine and have been suffering from pains in my lower back constantly. In March 1988 and in July 1988, I was warded at the University Hospital, Kuala Lumpur for treatment of my kidney condition. I have still not recovered…On another occasion during interrogation, Inspector Yusoff forced me to strip naked and to enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He also forced me to crawl on the floor in a naked state…then a police constable forced me to stand on one leg with both my arms outstretched holding my slippers. He made me remain in this position for two hours. He then called in a woman constable and her young daughter and asked them to look at me saying: ‘This Malay is not aware of who he is. He changed his religion. He has no shame!”

Torture under the ISA has been perpetrated with impunity by the Malaysian Special Branch ever since it was enacted in 1960. Unfortunately for Dr Mahathir, the principle of ministerial responsibility means that as the Home Minister and Prime Minister at the time, he is ultimately responsible for Operation Lalang and all the atrocities committed under this dragnet.