Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Sunday, 28th Feb. 1982 at 2 p.m.
Call on Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, to take immediate and firm action against a platoon of armed forces which went on a rampage some seven miles from Mengkarak new village on Friday assaulting and molesting rubber tappers.
On Friday, 26th February, 1982, from between 8 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. at Mengkarak Batu 66 rubber smallholdings, a platoon of soldiers went on a rampage against the tappers working on the holdings, assaulting them with rifles, slapping and kicking the men, women, girls and even a 13-year-old boy, demanding that they strip themselves, resulting in one serious case of injury and hospitalisation in the Mentakab General Hospital.
The soldiers did not ask for the curfew passes from the tappers and just started abusing and assaulting the tappers. When the tappers produced their curfew passes, identification papers and Rela cards in the case of four tappers, these papers were thrown away by the soldiers, who also warned the rappers not to report the incident, or they would have more ‘trouble’.
In one case, a tapper was told by one who appeared to be the most senior officer, that ‘Lu Cina ta guna, tolong dia orang , ta’ ada dia mana boleh hidup’ to justify the rampage and completely breakdown of military discipline.
Tan Lian Hu, 32, was approached by from the back by two or three soldiers who kicked him, ordered him to strip to his underwear, and when he produced his Rela card, threw it away. His wife, Koo Cha Boo, and sister, Tan Kim Lan, were ordered to strip themselves, which they refused, and Koo Cha Boo was slapped while Tan Kim Lan kicked.
Tan Lian Hu was asked whether he saw 10 people. He said he had not. Koo Cha Boo was asked at rifle point whether he wanted to die or not, and told to take off her clothes, and was slapped when she refused. Another soldier threw away her bread and asked what was the purpose of bringing bread there.
Other tappers had similar complaints that their food were thrown away by the soldiers. The tappers went to tap their trees at about 6.30 a.m. or 7. a.m. and would not finish until about 12 noon or 1 p.m. Surely, it does not require average intelligence on the part of the soldiers concerned to know the purpose of bringing bread for their own consumption.
The 13-year-old Thang Fook Chong was pointed at with a rifle, asked for his identity card and kicked at the buttock. He fell to the ground.
He and his brother, Thang Fook Sing, sister Tang Chui Yoon, and Tee Bang Joo, were working in the same area, and they were kicked and assaulted.
Thang Fook Sing and Tee Beng Joo were also hit by the with the rifle and rifle butts.
The tapper most seriously injured by this rampage of armed terror and brutality was Yap Soon Kuan, who is still in the Mentakab General Hospital. He and his brother, Tap Soon San, and sister, Yap Hooi Choo, were tapping though in separate areas.
Soon Kuan was so critically injured that he vomited blood, could not urinate, and could not take medicine on the first day, as he was seriously injured in his private parts. What is deplorable is that despite this serious condition, the Mentakab General Hospital at first refused to admit him, and it was not until he was taken to a private clinic that the private doctor got him admitted in the General Hospital.
Another tapper, Chong Guat Kim, 18, (f), was also kicked by three or four soldiers, who tried to pull down her dress.
The tappers complained that the soldiers warned them that if they should leave, they would be fired upon. Manay tappers’ motor-cycles were also damaged by the soldiers.
Out of these assaulted and molested by the soldiers numbering some 20 or 30, 14 had lodged police reports, 10 of whom are present at this press conference.
Since Friday, a curfew had been imposed in the rubber smallholdings, and the tappers could not go to tap.
This rampage of terror by the soldiers, who are supposed to protect rather than to hound the civilians, had created both anger and fear among the tappers and people in the Mengkarak area. Now, it is more true to say that the tappers are in more fear of the soldiers than the communists, whom they have not met and do not know whether are in operation in the area.
This is the first time this incident had happened in that area, and there definitely must not be another such incident anywhere else in Malaysia, for it marks a complete breakdown of military discipline and lawlessness.
I call on the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, to take immediate and firm action to restore pubic confidence in the armed forces as ‘friends and protectors of the people’ and not eh ‘enemies of the people’ who descend on innocent tappers to assault, victimise and molest them, in utter disregard of their curfew passes, identify cards and Rela identification papers.
This platoon must be immediately suspended and interdicted from service, and everyone of them court-martialled.
I will write officially to the Acting Prime Minister, for this such misuse of military powers if not checked and ruthlessly stamped out would lead to more incidents where civilians become brutalised and victimised at will.
A public repudiation of such undisciplined and barbaric behaviour and action by the soldiers must be made by the highest authorities to assure public that they can expect protection against such abuses from the armed forces.
At the coming Parliament meeting next week, I will highlight this matter if no satisfactory action is taken by that time.