At least 38 demonstrators were arrested in the cities of Kelantan, Selangor and Penang on 1 August during attempts to stage candle-lit vigils to call for the Internal Security Act’s repeal. In Selangor and Penang, the police dispersed the protesters before the vigils could even get under way.
The police response was disproportionate. The demonstrators only wanted to make their demands heard and used no violence at any time. They were nonetheless chased, beaten and arrested.
Those arrested including blogger Badrul Hisham Shaharin (http://chegubard.blogspot.com/), Ambrose Poh, editor of the civil society organisation SABM’s website (http://www.sayaanakbangsamalaysia.net/), representatives of the two civil society groups that organised the vigils (Suaram and GMI) and Socialist Party of Malaysia secretary-general S. Arutchelvan.
They were all released within 12 hours, but will have to report to police stations near their homes in two weeks’ time.
Campaign for Internal Security Act’s repeal
Demonstrations are to be held in several Malaysian cities on 1 August, the 50 anniversary of the Internal Security Act (ISA), to press the authorities to repeal this draconian law. The protest organisers include the human rights group Suaram (http://www.suaram.net/) and Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (http://himpunanmansuhisa.wordpress.com/), a movement specially created to campaign for its repeal.
Reporters Without Borders hails this initiative and reiterates its call to the government to scrap the ISA.
“This preventive detention law violates the constitution and the international undertakings Malaysia has given,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Created in 1960 to combat a communist insurrection and known as the ‘white terror,’ the ISA is an effective political strategy for suppressing all forms of opposition. Under section 8, anyone can be detained without trial for two years on the basis of a ministerial order, and the detention order can be renewed indefinitely.”
The press freedom organisation added: “Preventive detention for such a long period has no legitimacy. This law flouts international human rights standards such as the ban on arbitrary detention and the right to due process.”
Local and international NGOs are unanimous in condemning the way the Malaysian authorities abuse this law to detain journalists, bloggers and opposition leader for political reasons.
Raja Petra Kamarudin (“RPK”), a well-known blogger and editor of the Malaysia Today website, was held for 56 days under the ISA following his arrest on 12 September 2008. It was only after his lawyer obtained a writ of habeas corpus that he was released on 11 November 2008.
Hated by the government because of his repeated allegations of corruption and abuse of authority, RPK is still facing sedition and defamation charges for suggesting that the prime minister and his wife were involved in a murder linked to alleged kickbacks in the purchase of submarines from France. He now lives in exile and is still being sought by the Malaysian authorities.