Malaysia Turns Adult in the Festival of Lights: The 21st Anniversary of Operasi Lalang
Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI) wishes all Malaysians a happy Deepavali which shall soon usher in a new era of light over darkness. This year’s Deepavali is especially meaningful for all Malaysians, and not only the Hindu faithful, as it is also the 21st Anniversary of Operasi Lalang, the darkest moment in the Malaysian history for a generation.
In 1987, 106 socio-political activists – of all ethnic and convictional backgrounds – were detained without detention under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) while three newspapers were suspended under the authoritarian Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA). All these were done in the name of preserving national security and inter-ethnic harmony.
Same Law, Different Reactions
While the law is still intact two decades later and has produced new prisoners of conscience such as Raja Petra Kamaruddin, the Hindraf 5 and other political dissidents, Malaysians now have completely different reactions to such political crack-down.
Rather than engulfed by a climate of fear, Malaysians of all ethnic, religious and political backgrounds are now calling for the abolition of the ISA and the release of all prisoners of consciences.
This shows that Malaysians have come out age as a nation and a people. If we were a baby easily intimidated and traumatized 21 years ago, this Deepavali marks the attainment of our political adulthood. The outcries against ISA and other draconian laws have never been louder.
The public now squarely reject the flawed argument that a multicultural country can only choose between different forms of darkness: an authoritarian government and communal conflicts. Instead, we seek the lights endowed in ourselves as humans: rationality, free will, and the wisdom to strive for common goods.