Is the ISA crackdown a retaliation against the Suhakam’s inquiry into police abuses at the peaceful gathering at  Kesas Highway last November?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Both the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had been very dismissive of the Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) with regard to its call for the immediate release of the seven reformasi activists detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and its regret on the use of the detention without trial law.

Mahathir said the police and not Suhakam were responsible for the security of the country while Abdullah said that he  “expected” the response from the human rights commission and that while his  ministry was  “always willing to listen… we have our views” as “We have to provide peace and security for our people, we are responsible for the Malaysian people”.

It is clear that neither the Prime Minister,  Deputy Prime Minister  nor the Police holds very high regard for Suhakam.  This has reinforced my statement that the ISA crackdown was  in fact “a public slap in the face” for Suhakam, which had agreed to accept the  People’s Memorandum April 14  containing 10 principles on human rights entitled The Protection of Human Rights  tomorrow, as the Police has swooped down on the key figures of the People’s Memorandum April 14 Committee, including its chairman Saari Hj Sungib and committee members Hishamuddin Rais and Tian Chua.

In fact, Abdullah and the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, should clarify  whether the ISA crackdown was a form of  retaliation against the Suhakam’s inquiry into police abuses at the peaceful gathering at  Kesas Highway in Jalan Kebun, Klang  on November 5 last year  as the police felt humiliated by such an inquiry.

Abdullah has said that the arrests of the Reformasi Seven were strictly due to their involvement in activities detrimental to public order and national security and that there were no  other motives for the police action.

The Prime Minister said that the ISA arrests were a police action and not a political move.

If this is the case, the Prime Minister should explain why he is escalating the campaign of allegations against the seven detained, as accusing them of planning a violent protest including the use of explosives which the Inspector-General of Police had never said.

Norian Mai had alleged on Wednesday  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”.

As Norian Mai had never alleged  in his media conference  that  the Reformasi Seven were  planning a violent protest including the use of explosives in the  presentation of the  People’s Memorandum April 14  to Suhakam tomorrow, where did Mahathir get this additional information?

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 revelation of a militant conspiracy in the past two-and-a-half years for the violent overthrow of the government was that it was a “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 the  violent overthrow of the government.

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.  The police should produce such evidence to the Malaysian public without any delay.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman