Fascist Threats – The Same UMNO Modus Operandi

By Dr Kua Kia Soong, Director of SUARAM

The repression by the UMNO-led regime leading up to the Bersih rally of 9 July should serve as an eye opener for the youth of today who have not lived through the other orchestrated crises they have created in the past. Every time the regime has faced a challenge from within UMNO itself, such as in 1987 or from without, such as in 1998, the regime has invented a crisis.

Build-up to Operasi Lalang

It was the same during the build-up to Operation Lalang in 1987 when UMNO Youth threatened to hold a 500,000 strong rally in Kuala Lumpur to build on the rally in Kampung Baru where there were banners calling for racial bloodletting. The UMNO Youth leader at the time who excelled at breast-beating was none other than the present prime minister. This was the response to the completely peaceful assembly at the Tian Hou Temple called by the Chinese associations to protest the unreasonable posting of unqualified administrators to the Chinese schools. Operation Lalang was unleashed soon after.

During my detention under Operation Lalang, the Special Branch maintained that the response by UMNO Youth was reasonable because they had been provoked by the Chinese associations. That’s right, UMNO Youth has the state backing for any fascist violence they may choose to unleash against any protests or assemblies even if they are completely peaceful assemblies. They did the same when NGOs organised perfectly peaceful forums on the freedom of religion.

The Selective Efficiency of the Police

Thus, UMNO (and now their alter-ego, Perkasa) threaten violence whenever it is convenient for them. And the police, who are usually pretty efficient at putting down peaceful assemblies, can be selective in keeping order whenever these fascist mobs strike.

For example, it took the Malaysian police just twenty minutes to break up the peaceful Kesas Highway demonstration by thousands during the Reformasi years. But the police arrived one hour late during the peaceful East Timor conference in 1996 when it was disrupted by a mob organised by UMNO Youth. They were late again in restraining the mob that harassed the anti-Lynas protest in Kuantan recently.

During the racial violence in Kampung Medan in 2001, the police took nearly a week to restore order. They took an even longer time to restore order after the pogrom of May 13 in 1969 – something like two months!

The Suqiu Appeals

Again in 1999, UMNO Youth threatened to burn down the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall if the Chinese associations did not withdraw their Suqiu appeals that had already been accepted by even the BN before the general elections that year. The leaders of the Chinese associations surrendered to these threats by agreeing to keep in abeyance those appeals that UMNO had objected to. The UMNO Youth leader who distinguished himself in terrorising Suqiu was none other than the present Home Minister, famed for his keris-wielding machismo at UMNO general assemblies.

Detention Without Trial: Easy to Use…Just Lock Them Up!

The most convenient method of repression has always been to use detention without trial after the “crisis” created by UMNO Youth’s threat of fascist violence. The ISA (Internal Security Act) is the most well-known of these repressive apparatuses but in fact of late, more people have been detained through the use of the Emergency Ordinance(EO).

The detention of Dr Kumar and other PSM activists under the EO reflects a new trend in the BN government’s use of detention without trial. For years, the EO has been used against alleged gangsters and others involved in criminal activities while the ISA has been the favoured instrument to terrorise dissidents.

Do you see now why the BN government will cling on to the use of detention without trial as long as they can and all the more reason why justice-loving Malaysians must make the abolition of detention without trial top of the democratic agenda?

Must We Live in Perpetual Fear of UMNO’s Threats?

The leaders in Bersih have said they will be seeking audience with the King and will abide by his wisdom. Do we really expect the King to say “Yea, rave on with the rally?” Of course, not! Everyone knows he’s going to counsel the Bersih leaders against going through with the July 9th rally. And the Bersih leaders will use it as the reason for calling off the rally.

But since when has the King had to be consulted on the people’s struggles? Is this some new insight our constitutional lawyers have recently acquired into our system of constitutional monarchy?

So, what’s the learning in this episode of Malaysian struggles?

Should the rally be called off without any concessions by the BN government toward free and fair elections? If the YDP Agung is to be used as a climb-down accessory, some concession toward free and fair elections must be forthcoming by the BN government. Otherwise, the Bersih leaders must tell us what has been the purpose of planning this rally in the first place.

No, they cannot say they did not anticipate the fascist threats by UMNO Youth and Perkasa nor can they say they did not expect the use of detention without trial by the BN government. If no concession by the BN government is forthcoming while the rally is called off, I dare say we have been led up the garden path to July 9th!