Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 28 March 2016

I read with incredulity and amusement that some of the Pakatan Harapan politicians at the ‘Save Malaysia’ rally had appointed themselves representatives of the more than 10,000 ISA detainees to forgive Mahathir for his authoritarian rule including use of detention without trial.

The first point of fact worth noting is that up until now, Mahathir has yet to apologize for his authoritarian record and to ask for forgiveness from any of the ISA detainees he incarcerated. The second point is of course the shameless gall of these politicians to arrogate to themselves the role of representating all these former ISA detainees!

The ISA games politicians play

Many politicians today wear their ISA detention like a badge of honour that they can display for maximum political mileage. To them, their ISA detention was bearable as long as it could be used in the advancement of their political careers. In fact, from my detention while at Kamunting, those politicians who were not yet married, who did not yet have their own families or minimally participated in family life had quite a good time there. During Operation Lalang, most of the members of the main political parties and large NGOs were not subjected to physical torture so they may be ready to forgive the man who now opposes the Prime Minister who stands in their political path. Some may even want to thank the former Prime Minister for helping to advance their political careers…

Can these politicians really speak for all of the more than 10,000 ISA detainees since 1960?

Do they represent Loh Meng Liang, who sadly departed last week, and who was detained for more than 16 years? He was my first roommate when we were taken to Kamunting in 1987. He stood for socialist principles that Mahathir’s government considered a threat to national security and saw more than 16 years of his life taken away for his socialist beliefs.

Do they represent Joshua Jamaluddin, the Malay convert to Christianity who suffered gross torture such as this: “On one 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 for about 10 minutes…” (Kua Kia Soong, ‘445 Days under the ISA’, 1989:206) This is but a small part of the bestiality by the ISA torturers that Joshua was subjected to.

Do these politicians also represent Munawar Anees, the former confidant of Anwar Ibrahim? In his affidavit:

“Alas, the Malaysian dictator, Mahathir, under the growing burden of corruption and cronyism, conspired to halt the march of freedom. In order to build his fraudulent case against Anwar, Mahathir himself ordered my arrest. My kidnapping and detention by the infamous Malaysian Special Branch taught me how it feels to be forcibly separated from one’s wife and children. How it feels to be searched and seized, disallowed to make phone calls, handcuffed, blindfolded, stripped naked, driven in an animal cage, shaven bald, endlessly interrogated, humiliated, drugged, deprived of sleep, physically abused. What it’s like to be threatened, blackmailed, tormented by police lawyers, brutalized to make a totally false confession, hospitalized for a consequent heart ailment, and treated as a psychiatric patient with symptoms of Stockholm syndrome.” (Dr. Munawar Anees’ Story,

The details of his harrowing experience by these sub-human torturers can be gleaned from his affidavit on the internet. Have any of these Pakatan Harapan politicians asked Dr. Munawar Anees if he forgives Mahathir for the bestiality he went through?

The ISA has been a tool of state repression

The reality is that the ISA has been used as a political tool by the Malaysian state all these years to maintain their class rule. So it is not for the Pakatan Harapan politicians to forgive one man for using the ISA. Do they also forgive the entire ruling class represented in the Malaysian state? Maybe this form of political analysis is beyond the ken of these Harapan politicians…

The use of the ISA goes way back to the Independence days when the main threat to the ruling Alliance coalition was the Socialist Front. Do our present day politicians also claim to represent all those ISA detainees since 1960? Have our Pakatan Harapan politicians undergone the torture that many of these former Socialist leaders and activists had to undergo? The following is an excerpt from 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:

“1. We political detainees have undergone days and nights of endless interrogation which have inflicted grave toll on the mental condition of many detainees;

  1. During interrogation, we have been handcuffed, had our abdominal parts kicked, our heads bashed against the wall until they bled, and some have had to be hospitalised;
  2. We have had needles stuck in our fingernails and pencils used to squeeze our fingers between them;
  3. We have been burnt with cigarette lighters and hit with elastic bands, some have had nails inserted into their genitals;
  4. We have been asked to strip off our pants and to sit on open bottles;
  5. We have been made to take off our clothing and to stand before fans and air conditioners until we have passed out;
  6. The Banishment Law has been invoked to force political detainees out of the country, while those who do not accept banishment are kept on long-term detentions. Some at Seremban Detention Camp have already been detained for between ten to twenty years;
  7. We political prisoners here have been detained for between four to eight years without trial;
  8. The riot squad has been mobilised to storm our detention camp in order to force those who have refused to wear handcuffs when they leave the camp to do so. In the process, there has been bloodshed;
  9. Health and medical services are very poor in the camp. Those who leave for hospital treatment are forced to be handcuffed. After nine o’clock, we are forced into hot and stuffy cells…”

Forgiveness and impunity

Do I forgive Mahathir for taking away 445 precious days of my life from 1987 to 1989? On the one hand, I may forgive him if he apologises to me and if I am convinced that he has expressed contrition for his oppressive rule. To date, he has not publicly expressed a single word of apology to me or as far as I know, to any of the ISA detainees he put away under his rule.

On the other hand, while I may choose to forgive him for my ISA detention once I am convinced of his show of remorse, Mahathir still needs to account for the many financial and privatization scandals in which he lost up to (according to Barry Wain’s accounting) RM100 billion of the Malaysian people’s monies mainly to crony capitalists.

Our politicians need to know how to differentiate ‘forgiveness’ from ‘impunity”:

“Impunity arises from a failure by States to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations.” (The First Principle of the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity, submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 8 February 2005)

If our Pakatan Harapan politicians are not committed to combatting impunity, then to be consistent, they will also have to forgive Najib whenever he steps down from office and forget the 1MDB scandal and the 2.6 billion that went into the Prime Minister’s private account.


Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 7 March 2016

Once again in Malaysia we have witnessed the announcement of that trite cliché:  “there are no permanent enemies in politics”. History has shown us that this is typically spouted by desperadoes and drama kings when opportunism raises its ugly head. The latest round in the Anti-Najib campaign has seen the unspeakable spectacle of former Mahafiraun being made the head of the “Save Malaysia” campaign.

The audacity of naivete

To even think that this declaration of intent by this strange collection of bedfellows can depose the evil regime is an exhibition of the utmost naivete and an exercise in futility. Do they really believe the structures set up by Mahathir to make the incumbents in UMNO impregnable will just give way, especially when the UMNO division chiefs are even more well-fed than before?

The downfall of tyrants and dictators cannot be achieved by declarations alone. History has shown that it can only be achieved by mass direct action involving the ordinary citizens of all ethnic groups. Will Mahathir or any of the other leaders lead this mass movement? Unfortunately, Pakatan Harapan has succeeded in pushing out their former allies PAS who at least provided the Malay masses in past rallies and demonstrations against the UMNO/BN regime.

Pakatan Rakyat representatives were elected because of their declared “reformasi” policies. They have just signed a declaration which seems to affirm UMNO/BN rule with some minor changes in order to “save Malaysia”(sic).

The post-Najib scenario

Presuming Najib is forced to leave the scene, what does this ‘Save Malaysia’ coalition hope for? Mahathir has already declared that his main objective is to “Save UMNO/BN” and releasing Anwar is not even part of the deal!

Does the Pakatan Harapan believe that Mahathir will want to or be allowed to make significant structural changes to the democratic institutions in this country while UMNO/BN is still in power?

Do they really think Zahid Hamidi and the others in UMNO/BN will accede to these reforms?

Real Reforms

Opportunism in its crudest form can be seen when politicians target an individual and not the political regime and political economic system that oppresses, divides and exploits the people. This so-called “Save Malaysia” campaign to only expel Najib but maintain rule of the same racist and exploitative dominant party is nothing short of pure opportunism.

Reforms that do not target the neoliberal economic policies that were set in fast motion by Mahathir in the early Eighties are not serious reforms. Taxes on the rakyat will continue and income disparities will continue to widen while the working class will continue to bear the burden of so-called development.

Najib has merely made more extreme the structures created by Mahathir to entrench the powers of the Executive, emasculate the democratic institutions and provide the means for private enrichment of the elite in this country. Racist and racial discriminatory policies were also entrenched by Mahathir in the early Eighties and further manipulated by Najib until today.

No impunity for old miscreants

Apologists for their new saviour, Mahathir, have already started their own “forgiveness” of this former authoritarian Prime Minister who had wreaked havoc on ethnic relations, mishandled the economy through corruption, enriched selected elites, detained innocent Malaysians without trial (including the author) and sacked the former Lord President. They have tried to create the delusion that ‘born again democrats’ who denounce the current Prime Minister can have their record wiped clean!

Who are these politicians to declare which leader can be forgiven for their past crimes against the people of this country? They say that they “do not hate Mahathir…therefore they forgive”.

What’s hate got to do with it?

As Tina Turner reminded us: What’s hate got to do with it? If these politicians know anything about accountability and justice, they will know that the Malaysian people still want to ensure that these former politicians get their just desserts and repay their dues to the rakyat.

Mahathir has to this day not even apologized to all the victims of Operation Lalang or to the former Lord President whom he sacked in 1988 and now, without one shred of evidence of his own transformation, he dares to strut the Malaysian political stage as a “born-again democrat”!

The people must now demand that the Pakatan Harapan leaders come out and say categorically that when they come into office they will re-open the books on all the financial scandals since the seventies and eighties that have cost the rakyat billions of ringgit! According to the social scientist Barry Wain, Mahathir squandered close to RM100 billion during his reign as Prime Minister. The leader of the Opposition knows of these scandals more than anyone else in this country.

In human rights, democracy and justice, there is no place for impunity. Impunity means “exemption from punishment or loss or escape from fines”. It refers to the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations, rule of law flouters and the corrupt to justice and constitutes a denial of the victims’ right to justice and redress. We are familiar with impunity which is especially common in countries that do not respect the rule of law, that suffer from corruption and have entrenched systems of patronage, or where the judiciary is weak and the security forces are protected by the powers-that-be.

The First Principle of the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity, submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 8 February 2005 states that:

Impunity arises from a failure by States to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations.”

SUARAM has, since the infamous injustice of Operation Lalang, been in the forefront of the struggle against impunity. We do not want to see impunity being entrenched in this country through the rehabilitation of “born again democrats” and we expect any future governments to bear this in mind. Those who have transgressed against the people must prepare to face the charges on their judgement day here on earth.


Press statement by Dr Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 29 Feb 2016

The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 claims to “develop 21st Century skills such as critical and creative thinking” and further laments that our graduates lack critical thinking and communication skills.

How does this noble intention square with the latest pronouncement by the Inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar that he wants to ban a course on Marxism organized by Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)?

The revival of interest in Marxist analysis

Ever since that most catastrophic crisis of world capitalism in 2008, the revival in interest in Marxist analysis has seen the sales of Das Kapital, Marx’s masterful critique of political economy soar to unprecedented levels. Young people in the West are especially keen to know the source of the capitalist crisis as workers and other tax payers have bailed out the banks to keep the capitalist system going amidst increasing debt, job insecurity and austerity measures.

Recently, as part of its ‘Masters of Money’ series the BBC looked at the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek and finished by looking at the economic ideas of Karl Marx.  The presenter thought there were important insights to be found in Marx, particularly his perspective on the inequality of capitalism and its instability.  She also made the observation that Marx’s description of capitalism is truer now than when it was first made, noting the compulsive nature of the drive for profit within the capitalist system which is also the source of periodic crises.

Marx’s theory of surplus-value expounded in Das Capital is his most revolutionary contribution to economic science as well as the materialist interpretation of history. His discovery of the development trends of the capitalist mode of production also constitutes an exposition of recurrent crises of capitalist development.

Although Marxist analyses are now resurfacing in public dialogues about economy and society especially after perhaps capitalism’s worst crisis since the 1930s, Marx and Marxist thought have always been part of the essential curriculum of Social Science courses in the best universities of the world. This is the case in Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge as well as Moscow and Beijing universities. Marx with Weber and Durkheim were the main social thinkers in the Sociology courses at my university in Manchester where Marx and Engels lived and researched much of their analyses of the capitalist mode of production. When I was teaching Sociology at the National University of Singapore in 1978-79, Marx was also an essential part of the curriculum there. I cannot imagine our Malaysian universities banning Marxist thought and analysis from their curricula.

Thus the bright young thinkers in PSM should be congratulated for initiating the discussion of Marxism and the analysis of our challenging times. Instead of being hailed as the standard bearers of our Education Blueprint vision to develop the 21st century skills of critical and creative thinking, it seems they are being denigrated as the purveyors of subversive teachings.

Just as Einstein’s insight into gravitational waves has just been vindicated, let us not forget his well-known admonition that “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” It would be the height of irony and an insult to the government’s Transformation Programme if the content of Malaysia’s Education Blueprint is going to be dictated by the Inspector General of Police…