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Remembering 87/88 August 23, 2007

Posted by elizabethwong in Current Affairs, History, Human Rights, Malaysia, Politics.

With the criminal justice system under the public microscope of late, a number of former key players (then Attorney-General Abu Talib Othman and then Inspector-General of Police Haniff Omar) no doubt feel compelled to suggest how things were so much better during their time.

Yeah. Right. Hah.

An interesting but unsurprising interview on Malaysiakini, was given by Abu Talib today, touching on the turbulent years of 87/88, which saw the arrests of more than 100 people under the Internal Security Act and the demise of judicial independence.

Abu Talib conceded that many decisions he had made during his tenure as AG were controversial but defended his actions as it was done based on applicable law.

“Yes, I accept that (certain things were controversial). I drafted 121(1A) (of the Federal Constitution). I amended the ISA (Internal Security Act), which is now very controversial.” (Source)

What Abu Talib didn’t detail was that the amendment to the ISA centred on the right to judicial review. Thanks to this, a Ministerial Order to incarcerate a person without trial effectively cannot be challenged in court.

Part of the amendment reads:

5(2) “prohibits any action, suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding from being brought, instituted or mainted in respect of any detention order or detention ….”

In those few words, Abu Talib and the Mahathir regime had erased one of the most fundamental principles of justice – the right to seek remedy through the courts.

There’s a little story behind this (available in Dr. Kua Kia Soong’s ‘445 days behind the wire‘. Kua was one of those detained in 1987). I’m relying on memory for now, as my copy is with Mr B.

Karpal Singh, also detained during Operasi Lalang, decided to file his own habeas corpus writ. Kua was one of those who helped Karpal type his affidavit on a creaky Kamunting typewriter, since Karpal didn’t know how to use it and he couldn’t bring in his secretaries.

So the Tiger of Jelutong took off to the Ipoh High Court of Malaya on 9th March 1988, and naturally succeeded in winning his own case. The court had ruled that his detention was unlawful.

Alas, he was arrested on the same day at a police roadblock at Nibong Tebal, around 8.30 pm, and was returned to the warm bosoms of his comrades in Kamunting.

Mahathir was so incensed that the Tiger won, that the amendment was moved and passed in Parliament to stop Karpal and anyone who thought going to fair judges would be a good idea.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Operasi Lalang – 27 October 1987, which incidentally coincides with my personal political awakening, though expressed in simpler terms, e.g. – “Blistering barnacles! This government is bad…” – as I was a mere teen in a crumpled turquoise pinafore then.

Some wonderful quotes by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

(1987) “Laws such as the Internal Security Act have no place in modern Malaysia. It is a draconian and barbaric law.”

(1988) “If we want to save Malaysia and Umno, Dr Mahathir (then Prime Minister) must be removed. He uses draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act to silence his critics.”

(2003) “We have never misused the Internal Security Act. All those detained under the Internal Security Act are proven threats to society.”

1987. 1988. Never forget. Never surrender.


1. wits0 - August 23, 2007

They pushed things over to the Abyss and now minimized their own role. Is there no end to these stella(aka glaring) examples of double-speak? The same voices emanating from the depth of infamy become good enough for the mindlessly subservient MSM to peddle constantly. And the ppl must bow and praise!.

2. wits0 - August 23, 2007

“Param Cumaraswamy said the damage cannot be undone by pointing the finger at Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and demanding the removal of judges whose competence are under question.

“He worked hand-in-glove with then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad (the all powerful Dictator in 80’s) to remove Tun Salleh Abas as lord president””

“Controversial”, is such a mild and PC euphemism. It might be used, at most, in the Vijendran’s sex scandal case where the then AG burnt the video VHS tapes that could’ve served as evidence. Haha!

3. ghostline - August 24, 2007

In 87/88 I was too young to know or understand the horrible injustice that had been perpetrated. The rot started a long time ago.

Never forgive, never forget.

4. wits0 - August 24, 2007

Now in retrospect he can claim the call of “duty”….and including human empathy for the girl in Vijendran’s case.
Shall we all believe that because he has a mole on his forehead?

5. monsterball - August 24, 2007

Yes the judicial department has a very bad reputations with irresponsible judges…corrupted ones and some playing pro Mahathir politics. Some are still there…..and S.Times have bEen trying hard to expose the weaknesses…yet we get the AG keep defending…saying..no such thing.That’s our so call fair minded learned people talking.
Pah Lah need to score by getting rid of the crooked sly foxes…but no great or good end results….just exposing..no actions.
Tun Salleh Abbas’s case is a good example…talk talk talk…but no justice for him…as protecting UMNO good or bad ..is more important than anything else…and Mahathir is UMNO.

6. oA - August 24, 2007


Cowards with huge ego can never admit to mistakes.
Worst when a coward trying to portray himself to be a benevolent image – leading a human rights group after the fact.

What a crock.

Both are now croaking over the mistakes they spawned – not because they care for the country and its multi racial constituent but for their own selfish image.

However it is known that :

A father never destroys, he just keep building.
A soldier only destroys in order to build. – gen. mac.

Both of em then were like soldiers, they never care even if they have to destroy everything. They were that short sighted, dumb.


7. kittykat46 - August 24, 2007

He was an establishment hatchet man….just as the current AG is the “washing machine” for the establishment.

8. yh - August 24, 2007

now you know, this badawi is from the same piece of cloth worn by mahatir. aint they come from the same political house? food for thought, isnt it?

9. Top Posts « WordPress.com - August 24, 2007

[…] Remembering 87/88 With the criminal justice system under the public microscope of late, a number of former key players (then […] […]

10. wits0 - August 24, 2007

In case not one noticed(not possible!), even his mouth is physically asymmetrical. Ironical.

Although what he says of the present state of the court today may have a large measure of truth but he really hardly have that moral authority to….so much like the case of the devil quoting scriptures. Surely Mahathir must’ve done some good too – but for the wrong and less than pure reasons.

11. Chee Yong - August 29, 2007

Elizabeth, I had my first read of 445 Days Behind The Wire when I was studying in NUS about 10 yrs back in the library there. Do you think its a good time now for a reprint? Maybe Dr Kua can add a new chapter on his perspective of things in Msia currently. Dr Syed Husin Ali, Two Face is a good read as well.

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