23 years ago on 27th October, the police rounded up 106 Malaysians and detained them under the ISA. The publishing permits of The Star, Sunday Star, Sin Chew Jit Poh and Watan were withdrawn.
All these came about following the questionable decision of an Education Minister to appoint around 100 non-Mandarin speaking senior assistants and headmasters to vernacular Chinese schools. The Chinese saw it as a deliberate attempt to dilute and then destroy vernacular education. Very harsh words were thrown around between UMNO Youth (then headed by Najib, today’s PM) and the Chinese based political parties (MCA, Gerakan and DAP) and some NGOs.
Guess who was then the Education Minister – wakakaka.
Anyway, racial tension rose swiftly to the red mark and the police, then reasonably neutral and independent under Tan Sri Haniff, proposed to cancel a mammoth UMNO Youth rally (in response to Chinese protest over the Education Ministry’s unprecedented action).
The police raised their mounting concerns over the staging of such a rally which would have sparked another May 13, at a time when the UMNO-Chinese war of words was further worsened by a Malay soldier who had gone on a killing rampage in the Chow Kit area, fatally shooting a Malay and two Chinese with his M16 rifle. We came to learn that he was struck with grief and insurmountable rage over the death (or murder) of his brother, a caddy at a golf course.
Apparently, local experts said the PM (guess who – wakakaka) agreed to the cancellation of the rally provided the principal Chinese leaders of the protest and some token Malays and even a few UMNO blokes (presumably those not popular with the top echelon of their party - wakakaka) were detained under the ISA, as an appeasement to the organizers of the UMNO rally.
Naturally under such a claimed arrangement, even with a redoubtable IGP, Tan Sri Haniff, there were the usual Teflon-ised exceptions – Najib was not touched at all while MCA Deputy President Lee Kim Sai was sent away, not back to China as per the wishes of Siti Inshah Mansor but to Australia for a ‘vacation’.
Apart from loss of Lee's been chooi or ‘face’, where Najib needn’t have to leave but he had to – yup, that’s the eternal story of UMNO and MCA - his other ‘loss’ was his Selangor Datukship, which under the instigation of UMNO Youth (Najib) was withdrawn by the previous Sultan. Then many Chinese had hoped Lee would be dignified enough not to re-accept it.
Flash forward 23 years, with 27 October just around the corner, and a police force now functioning as a direct tool of UMNO (note their harassment of DAP pollies like Tony Pua on a issue of policy debate conducted openly in the public arena), and the Malaysian Insider’s headlines recently reading MCA, DAP flay BTN, demand punishment for ‘racist’ official it’s a frightening déjà vu.
In 1987 Dr Mahathir had warned of the unacceptability of a Shaolin type gathering of Chinese leaders (MCA, Gerakan and DAP and some NGOs) at a Chinese temple to coordinate their protests against the provocative education decision. Shaolin Temple was famous as a centre of rebellion against the Manchu overlords.
Won't MCA and DAP attacking BTN deputy directy Hamim Husin today be seen as Shaolin-ish? wakakaka.
In the meanwhile, to add spice to the virtual ‘reenactment’, Perkasa is going after Wee Chee Meng while the police goes after Tony Pua and DAP colleagues.
As for the media, Malaysiakini needs to look over its shoulders because this time it won't be a very mute The Star that gets it.
That should buy the BN some extra time for the next general election.