Challenge to Dr. Mahathir to institute an Independent Commission of Inquiry to determine the causes of the racial tensions in October 1987

Speech (part II) by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary – General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP Bagan Dinner held at Butterworth on Saturday, December 2, 1989 at 8pm

Challenge to Dr. Mahathir to institute an Independent Commission of Inquiry to determine the causes of the racial tensions in October 1987

There seems to be a conflict of opinion between the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed and the Deputy Prime Minister, Ghafar Baba, on the position of the Internal Security Act.

Ghafar Baba had said in Serdang on Thursday that the Government would study whether the ISA can be withdrawn in view of the end of the 41 – year – old armed struggle of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) with effect from today.

But yesterday, the Prime Minister sang a different tune when he said that the government had not made any decision on the ISA issue as yet, indicating that the government was not yet prepared to review the ISA as mentioned by his Deputy Prime Minister.

How can the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister come out with such conflicting statements on such am important matter as the ISA?

Dr. Mahathir used the 1987 mass arrest to justify the need for the ISA, saying that it was used not merely to contain the communist menace, but also to avoid racial flare – ups.

He said the situation had been bad before the ISA was used in 1987, and that the tension was immediately diffused after the mass arrests.

This is a gross distortion of history. In fact, the 1987 Operation Lallang mass arrests was the best example of the gross abuse of ISA powers by the government for its own political ends.

There was indisputably racial tensions in the country in October 1987 – and I raised this matter in Parliament more than once – before the mass arrests. But the racial tensions were not caused by the 106 people who were detained under Operation Lallang, but by people who were not arrested.

The tension diffused, not because of the ISA arrests, but because of the cancellation of the planned Nov. 1, 500,000 – strong UMNO rally, which was the real cause for the fear of possibility of another May 13 riots.

DAP challenges the Prime Minister to institute an independent Commission of Inquiry into the racial tensions of October 1987, to determine who were the real culprits – and whether the diffusion of tension was because was because of the ISA arrests or the cancellation of the UMNO Nov. 1 rally.

In fact, the whole situation in the country in Oct. 1987 would have been restored to normal if the UMNO Rally on Nov. 1 had been cancelled.

The DAP is prepared to challenge the Prime Minister to establish such as Independent Commission of inquiry into the cause of the racial tensions of October 1987, and the justification for the Operation Lallang mass arrests, for we are conmfident that any independent and impartial inquiry can only come to one conclusion:
That the ISA was used to consolidate the power of the Prime Minister and not to resolve racial tensions in the country.

In face, the Independent Commission of Inquiry should investigate as to whether at that time, racial tensions were allowed to escalate in order to create a situation where the government could invoke the ISA – and this was why UMNO Ministers went round the country upping the numbers of people they want for the UMNO rally on Nov. 1, from 50,000 increasing to 100,000 then 200,000 and finally 500,000!