Leave it to the politicians to always find a way to shock and awe us. In March of last year civil society and opposition leaders’ had gathered at a press conference. Lo and behold Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was sitting right smack in the center. It left many people I knew scratching their heads. The event was of course none other than the Citizens’ Declaration movement. How is it that a man so reviled by the opposition now sat amongst them? This was a man who had weakened the independence of the judiciary, abused the rule of law and cracked down on dissenting voices. So how does one reconcile the two? Let bygones be bygones, maybe.
It was certainly rather difficult to digest particularly for loyal party supporters of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the People’s Justice Party (PKR). Some of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s supporters were dumbfounded, to say the least. Their beloved opposition leader remained incarcerated. Yet Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, a close associate of Anwar sat there besides the ex-premier. Also thrown in the mix was Lim Kit Siang, a long-time foe of Tun Dr. Mahathir. DAP loyalists were aghast.
You see some political maneuvering was needed to make the situation more palatable for PKR and DAP supporters. In the months after the Citizens’ Declaration press conference, Tun Dr. Mahathir and Datuk Seri Anwar had that handshake. You know the one that reverberated throughout the world. Who could have missed that Kodak moment? It was of course a move to indicate to political observers and the public that the two men have forgiven each other.
While Tun Dr. Mahathir had settled his “differences” with Datuk Seri Anwar there was still DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, who was infamously detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) during the Ops Lalang 1987. How does Tun Dr. Mahathir address this transgression, which remains so deeply imbedded in the minds of DAPs loyalists? Obviously it requires another strategic political move.
To commemorate this dark time in Malaysia’s history the Penang state government will be hosting a forum – Remembering 30 Years: Ops Lalang on 28 October 2017. The forum will feature a number of personalities from the opposition coalition including Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng, Gobind Singh Deo and Mohamad Sabu. Interestingly enough former premier Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who was widely criticized as being the mastermind behind Ops Lalang, is expected to attend the event. Political ploy anyone?