Mahathir has escalated the allegations against the Reformasi Seven  arrested under ISA to make it impossible for the police to act professionally and without bias

- Barisan Alternative Leaders Media Conference in Parliament House
Lim Kit Siang

(Kuala Lumpur, Thursday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has today defended the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA)  to arrest seven opposition activists, saying they were suspected of planning a violent protest including the use of explosives.

In saying what the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, had not said yesterday in his media conference yesterday, Mahathir has escalated the baseless allegations against the Reformasi Seven, highlighting that the ISA crackdown is not a police or security action but a purely political one.

All that Norian Mai alleged yesterday was that the “reformasi movement” which began in September 1998 had “planned to topple the government through large-scale street demonstrations and was prepared to act militantly by adopting various measures such as: (I)  taken steps to obtain explosives including bombs and grenade launchers; (ii) used molotov cocktails, ball bearings and other dangerous objects to attack security forces and create disturbances during  street demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur in October 1998; (iii) acquired the assistance of silat instructors and influenced a number of former security forces personnel to join their movement”.

Norian Mai did not at any time in his media conference yesterday make any specific allegation against the Reformasi Seven of planning a violent protest including the use of explosives, particularly with reference to the so-called Black 14 gathering on Saturday to present People’s 14th April Memorandum to Suhakam on human rights in Malaysia.

With the Prime Minister making such a specific allegation, without producing an iota of evidence, Mahathir has escalated the allegations against the Reformasi Seven and made it impossible for the Police to act professionally under the law and without bias to investigate and evaluate whether the seven are real security threats within the definition of the ISA, as it would mean having to publicly prove the Prime Minister wrong which is clearly not permissible for the police.

My first reaction to Norian Mai’s media conference yesterday   of a militant conspiracy in the past two-and-a-half years for the violent overthrow of the government was that it was another “fairy tale” reminiscent of the 1974  ISA arrests and subsequent  White Paper on “Communist Party of Malaya: Activities Within the University of Malaya Chinese Language Society” on police crackdown against university students allegedly for taking part in the Communist Party of Malaya conspiracy to overthrow the existing social order.

At that time, stage props for a Chinese cultural concert “Spring Thunderstorm” was used by the authorities to claim that they had seized arms from students at the University of Malaya meant for such a violent overthrow of the government-of-the-day.

If there is a militant conspiracy for the violent overthrow of the government for the past two-and-a-half years, it would reflect very poorly on the competence and professionalism of the police if it could not come up with any hard evidence of the conspiracy to present to the public to convince them that this is no fairy-tale.

If the police cannot immediately produce hard evidence to convince the nation and people of such a militant conspiracy for the violent overthrow of the government, the Reformasi Seven should be immediately released under the ISA.  If the government has evidence against the seven, they should be charged under the laws of the land where their fundamental rights to a fair and open trial would be respected.

Mahathir should withdraw from the precipice of a new Dark Age as his ISA crackdown reflects political weakness and not strength.  Despite the assurance of the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that the government is not targeting leaders of Parti Keadilan Nasional in arresting the Reformasi Seven, no one is certain whether this is a prelude to more and bigger waves of ISA detentions against the political opposition and civil society dissent or whether there would be an expansion to a larger crackdown against human rights, as freedom of speech, association and assembly - especially as the Pahang police has announced that it would not allow the holding of political meetings and ceramahs in the state.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman