(Petaling Jaya, Monday): While the air waves of radio and television have daily redounded to lusty shouts of "Merdeka" in the run-up to the 43rd National Day celebrations in another three days, the spirit of national festivities has been dampened if not spoilt by the anti-national rampage by UMNO Youth and certain UMNO leaders who want to create a political and communal crisis out of a vacuum in order to restore Malay political support.
In choosing Malay special rights to drum up communal feelings and tensions, even to the extent of plunging the country into an unnecessary and completely avoidable political and communal crisis, when no one had challenged Malay speical rights, UMNO Youth and certain UMNO leaders had indulged in the most irresponsible anti-national activities.
UMNO Youth and certain UMNO leaders do not seem to know that it is an automatic criminal offence of sedition for anyone to question or challenge Malay special rights after the Constitution had been amended in 1971 to entrench Malay special rights as one of the four "sensitive issues".
If it is true as claimed by UMNO Youth and certain UMNO leaders that Malay special rights had been challenged, then the responsible and mature response is for the Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah to invoke the 1971 Constitution amendment and prosecute the persons concerned under the Sedition Act and not to take the law into their own hands by instigating and staging the unruly, abusive and gangsterish UMNO Youth demonstration at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on August 19, 2000, where Inflammatory and racist placards were displayed, reporters abused and assaulteld and threats uttered to "burn down the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall or any talk of "bloodshed" as made by the new Selangor Mentri Besar, Datuk Mohamad Khir Toyo.
With the underlying communal tensions created by UMNO Youth and certain UMNO leaders, such as the planned mammoth UMNO Youth gathering at Putrajaya on the eve of National Day to "show off its strength" on the issue of Malay special rights - which "BISIK-BISIK MINGGUAN - AWANG SULUNG" in Mingguan Malaysia yesterday had advised against - the 43rd Merdeka Month celebrations with the theme of "togetherness" among 22 million Malaysians run the risk of losing all meaning altogether.
In this connection, the country must take serious note of the warning by the Gerakan President and Minister for Primary Industries, Datuk Dr. Lim Keng Yaik at the Negri Sembilan Gerakan Annual Delegates Conference in Seremban yesterday that there could be a repeat of the 1987 Operation Lalang mass arrests under the Internal Security Act if the UMNO Youth-Suqiu controversy continues.
If there is a repeat of the 1987 Operation Lalang, then the Suqiu leaders as well as opposition leaders from the DAP, PAS, Keadilan and PRM would be detained under the ISA, while UMNO Youth and the UMNO leaders responsible for plunging the country into a communal crisis by manufacturing a synthetic political crisis out of a vacuum would by and large be left scotfree - although a few minor UMNO Youth leaders may be detained for one or two weeks for appearances’ sake.
Barisan Alternative leaders had warned right from the beginning that UMNO Youth’s synthetic political crisis could be a set-up to create the conditions for a second Operation Lalang mass arrests against the Opposition and dissenters in the civil society.
A day after the unruly, abusive and gansterish UMNO Youth demonstration
at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, I had said in my media statement
(20th August 2000):
"Are we seeing a repetition of this dark episode in the nation’s history of democracy and human rights?"
Keng Yaik has now confirmed these worst fears that there is afoot a conspiracy to re-enact a second Operation Lalang 13 years later, which has nothing to do with national security but purely to serve the political interests of UMNO and Barisan Nasional.
The statements by Keng Yaik and the MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik blaming the Suqiu Committee for being responsible for the re-igniting of UMNO Youth’s Malay special rights controversy is most misplaced, unfair and hypocritical.
What is the sin or crime of the Suqiu Committee? Was it wrong or criminal for Suqiu Committee to formulate the 17-point Suqiu for the last general election, and if so, why did Keng Yaik and Liong Sik declare the full Gerakan and MCA support for Suqiu in the high-profiled joint press conference on August 17, 1999?
Are Keng Yaik and Liong Sik now implying that they agree with UMNO Youth on Suqiu and that MCA and Gerakan have reservations about the Suqiu?
UMNO Youth cannot be sincere in trying to create a political storm and communal crisis over Suqiu, when the Suqiu is one-year old and UMNO Youth had not objected to Suqiu being presented and its acceptance by the Cabinet in September last year.
The political and communal tempests created by UMNO Youth in a political vacuum has not only marred the 43rd National Day celebrations, but even more serious, raised fundamental questions as to the sincerity and commitment of the Barisan Nasional government to Vision 2020 and the Bangsa Malaysia concept.
It is sad and even tragic that after more than one-third way towards the 30-year Vision 2020 and the Bangsa Malaysia concept, the country could be allowed to be plunged into an artificial political and communal crisis by extremist, dangerous and bankrupt politicians which will set back the nation-building process of the past 43 years.
DAP and the Barisan Alternative want to see an immediate end to the disruptive, divisive and dangerous politicking over Malay special rights when it was never challenged and never an issue in the first place and we are prepared to fully co-operate with the Barisan Nasional to restore inter-racial harmony and understanding.
For this reason, DAP calls for an emergency all-party roundtable conference to salvage the 43rd National Day celebrations on Thursday from being derailed by the "political Ectasy" of UMNO Youth and certain UMNO leaders who want to play the communal card at the expense of national unity, end the synthetic political crisis over Malay special rights once and for all as well as restore inter-communal understanding, peace and harmony.