(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): It has been reported that Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor, who is due to retire on reaching 55 yesterday, has been offered a one-year contract to continue to lead the police force and that he has accepted the offer.
The extension of service of senior government officials on their retirement by way of contracts of appointment is fairly normal practice, but Rahim Noorís extension of service may have a special and ominous significance.
Rahim Noor was responsible for the notorious Operation Lalang in 1987 which resulted in mass detentions under the Internal Security Act and a massive assault on all fronts of fundamental liberties, where even the judiciary was not spared when the worst crisis of the judiciary erupted in 1988 and Malaysia has not yet recovered from that crisis of confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.
The question that immediately comes to my mind is whether Rahim Noorís extension of service as IGP means that he would be responsible for another crackdown against civil liberties and democratic freedoms just as he was responsible for the 1987 Operation Lalang and crackdown against human rights, although he was then Special Branch Director and not yet Inspector-General of Police. Tun Haniff Omar was then IGP and Rahim Noor did not become IGP until January 1994, but it was clear that it was Rahim Noor who wielded the real power.
Rahimís extension of service has come at a time when there are most disturbing signs that the government has decided on a major crackdown on fundamental liberties and human rights of Malaysians, purportedly on the ground to prevent the Indonesian contagion of political and civil unrest from spreading to Malaysia.
I call on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to desist from any idea of such a crackdown against civil liberties and democratic freedoms in Malaysia as this would be to draw the wrong lessons from Suhartoís downfall.
Instead, he should convene a meeting of all political parties to reach a consensus on a programme of political reforms and democratisation in Malaysia so that the country would be better placed in a position to mobilise the government, society and people to respond as one unit to face the worst economic crisis in the nationís history and ensure the fastest possible economic turnaround and recovery.