Mahathir accepts blame for detentions under Malaysia's Internal Security Act in 1987, but stops short of apology

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad said he accepted responsibility for the detentions in 1987, but stopped short of apologising.
Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad said he accepted responsibility for the detentions in 1987, but stopped short of apologising. PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Former Malaysian prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has accepted the blame for the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) to detain 106 people during an operation in 1987 dubbed Ops Lalang.

The former premier, in a blog post on Wednesday (Nov 1), reiterated his stance that it was the police who insisted on using the law, but added that he took responsibility for the arrests.

However, he stopped short of apologising for the incident.

"I accept the blame even though the detention was not my decision," he said.

"I am now told that detainees were tortured. I regret that the detainees in Ops Lalang were tortured. This is against the law," he said.

Ops Lalang began after 19 people were arrested on Oct 27, 1987.

By late November, a total of 106 people, including opposition and Barisan Nasional politicians, academics and leaders of non-government organisations were nabbed under the ISA, while three newspapers were shut down.

Dr Mahathir, who was also the home minister at the time, had signed the detention orders.

However, he has firmly maintained that he was not supportive of the use of the ISA.

"The first thing I did when I became prime minister was to order the release of 21 political prisoners under Internal Security Act.

"I did that because I did not like detention without trial ever since Aziz Ishak was detained," he said, referring to the detention of politician and journalist Abdul Aziz Ishak in 1965.

Mr Abdul Aziz had been detained until 1966, after being accused of collaborating with Indonesian agents to form a government-in-exile during the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation.

"I had hoped that during my tenure as Prime Minister I would not have to detain anyone," Dr Mahathir added.