Friday, September 12, 2008

A question of insecurity

A question of insecurity
13 Sept, 2008

The Malaysian Insider Commentary

Ops Lalang in 1987 ended Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's flirtation with openness and in eerily similar circumstance, polemics of race relations have culminated in a fresh round of Internal Security Act (ISA) arrests yesterday under the watch of handpicked successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Abdullah took office and, with a 91 percent majority in 2004, promised transparency and rule of law, but the dismal results of the March 8 elections has made his leadership unstable and untenable as Umno politicians carp at his indecisiveness and Dr Mahathir himself has thrown everything but the kitchen sink to oust the prime minister.

Therefore, the latest ISA arrests appear to be a repeat of Dr Mahathir's act of putting away 106 politicians and activists and shutting down newspapers when leadership is threatened and power appears to be slipping away.

In Dr Mahathir's case, it was the party clash with Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and tense race ties between Malays and Chinese over vernacular education set off by then Education Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's decision to appoint non-Chinese educated administrators in Chinese schools.

In Abdullah's case, an unhappy Umno and Malay ground together with equally unhappy non-Malays coupled with the looming Sept 16 deadline by Anwar to topple Abdullah's government has pushed the prime minister to draw the line and take action.

That action has led to DAP leader Teresa Kok, journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and prominent blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, being detained up to 60 days for investigations under the ISA while three newspapers have been issued show-cause notices for their reporting.

Ironically, one of the three newspapers - Sin Chew Daily - was closed down in the 1987 Ops Lalang.

The government has given security grounds and threats to public order for the arrest of Raja Petra, a harsh government critic who already faces a few criminal and civil court dates for his articles in the Malaysia Today news portal.

As for Kok, newspapers report it could be related to allegations that she asked mosques in her state constituency to reduce the volume of prayer calls while Tan is being held for her report on Umno Penang warlord Datuk Ahmad Ismail's racist rant that saw him punished with a three-year suspension from party office.

Then and now, those arrested have been far removed from those who stoke the racial tensions and endanger the security and public order of the nation.

Then and now, messengers get shot but not the perpetrators.

Then and now, is it the security of the nation or the insecurity of the ruling politicians that has led to these arrests?

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