Friday, December 14, 2007

Anwar Ibrahim condemns use of ISA

Dec. 14, 2007

Anwar Ibrahim Condemns Use Of ISA

Five ethnic Indians held under a Malaysian law that allows detention without trial should be charged in court immediately to avoid the risk of rights abuse, Malaysian opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim said on Friday.

Authorities have said the activists, members of a group that staged a massive anti-government protest last month, were detained on Thursday for up to two years on the grounds that their actions had threatened national security.

The group, the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) alarmed the government by bringing more than 10,000 ethnic Indians onto the streets of the capital to complain of racial discrimination.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was once himself locked up under the colonial-era law originally designed to fight communists, said the legislation was easy to abuse.

"We are, as a principle, against the Internal Security Act and the use of the Act against anyone," he told reporters.

"We have evidence, we have experience of the abuse of the Act against political personalities and civil society leaders throughout the years after independence."

Anwar was himself beaten by the then police chief during his own detention under the Act in 1998, for leading anti-government protests demanding political reform in the wake of being sacked by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said the government had been very 'patient' with the Hindraf group, and acted only after having given it a sufficient chance to conform to the law.

"The public 'wanted' the government to take a stern action much earlier but we were very patient and tolerant," state news agency Bernama quoted Najib as saying. "When the ISA was invoked, it should not have come as a surprise to anyone."

The Hindraf rally was one of two mass protests last month. A separate crowd of around 10,000 people had earlier turned out on the streets of the capital to demand electoral reforms, amid expectations of a snap poll by March 2008.

But the Indian rally, though largely peaceful, aroused deep concerns within the government, and also among many ordinary Malaysians, because of the country's history of tense and sometimes explosively violent race relations.

In 2001, five people were killed and 37 wounded in riots between majority ethnic Malays and Indians that began after an Indian kicked over a chair at a Malay wedding. In 1969, hundreds were killed in rioting between Malays and ethnic Chinese.

But Anwar said he believed more arrests could follow, because Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi appeared to have decided to take a hard line against the protesters.

"I am extremely -- not only disappointed, but appalled -- by the manner in which Prime Minister Abdullah is acting right now," he said.

"He has just succumbed to pressures of extremist hue. From the rhetoric of the government, the prime minister and the leaders, I wouldn't be surprised if more arrests were made."

***** Woh! Pak Lah is surely beginning to wield the big stick now. However it is in a way a strange situation. Setting aside all the rhetoric and government-sponsored demonising, these five chaps are being punished basically because they have exposed publicly the sins of Umno. Shouldn't it be some of these umnoputeras who should be nabbed and brought to trial instead?

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