(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The extremist demands of the Federation of Peninsula Malay Students (GPMS) yesterday immediately after breaking-fast with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at Putrajaya the previous night is most ominous and raises the question whether it is a prelude to escalation of ethnic tensions to justify another Operation Lalang mass crackdown to shore up Mahathir and UMNO’s tottering political position.
GPMS president Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim said that if Suqiu refuses to withdraw its demands, it would submit 100 demands which would include:
Mahathir seemed neither surprised or concerned about the GPMS’ extremist demands. In fact, one should ask whether GPMS’ action was the result of the "inspiration" given by the Prime Minister when he spoke for more than an hour to some 2,000 GPMS members on Wednesday night - and which was attended by other UMNO leaders including the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr. Abdul Hamid Othman and the Minister of Internatonal Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz.
I am reminded of the pre-Operation Lalang scenario in 1987 and in particular the escalation of ethnic tensions by UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders resorting to the most provocative racist slogans to justify mass arrests under the Internal Security Act.
The Government White Paper tabled in Parliament on 23rd March 1988 entitled "Towards Preserving National Security" to justify the Operation Lalang mass arrests five months earlier referred to the escalation of ethnic tensions by the UMNO Youth rally on 17th October 1987 which displayed banners with the words:
Mahathir should be forewarned that the escalation of ethnic tensions to justify another Operation Lalang and mass arrests of Opposition leaders and personalities of dissent is no answer either to the multiple crisis of confidence facing the country or the salvation of UMNO.
Malaysia at the beginning of the 21st century is very different from Malaysia of 1987, and this time, those who cynically play with communal fire can end up in putting their entire political legacy to the flames.
In the final analysis, the country hopes that the Deputy Prime Minister,
Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, as the Home Minister as well as successor-
designate to the premiership, would have the strength of character to prevent
the repetition of the build-up to another Operation Lalang scenario - whether
by UMNO Youth or a new proxy organisation like GPMS.