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Prelude to an ISA crackdown
Beh Lih Yi Dec 8, 07 11:19am
The authorities appeared to be laying the groundwork to invoke the Internal Security Act against key leaders in Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), ex-ISA detainees said.
This came after Inspector General-of-Police Musa Hassan accused the group, which led a rare mass protest of 30,000 Indian Malaysians on Nov 25, of having connections with terrorists.
Saari Sungib, who was held under the notorious Internal Security Act (ISA) in 2001 with nine others reformasi activists, said the current signs were similar to those before the arrest of his group six years ago.
“They accused us of using molotov cocktails, grenade launchers and that we had links with terror groups to topple the government,” he said in reference to why they were detained then under the ISA, which allows for detention without trial.
The claim - not proven to date - was then vehemently rejected by the group, which was actively involved in the free Anwar Ibrahim campaign launched after the latter’s sacking as the deputy premier.
In a statement on Thursday, Musa has accused Hindraf leaders of seeking support from terrorists, smearing Malaysia’ reputation and inciting racial hatred - a serious charge in the multi-racial country dominated by Malay Muslims.
The police chief however did not furnish further details on his allegation and did not identify the alleged terrorist groups, while Hindraf denied the allegation immediately.
Saari, who is now PAS Selangor information chief, said he believed ISA may be invoked against the Hindraf leaders as the “(police’s) special branch personnel are prone to recommend the use of the ISA”.
“It’s the easiest way for them (the authority),” he added.
Another ex-ISA detainee, Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor was of the view that although there were similar signs to the last round of crackdown using the ISA, it would not be meted out any time soon.
“The authorities are using different means through the police or court, like rejecting the detainees’ bail. Making it as harsh as possible. I believe ISA will only be the last option,” said Ezam, who heads an anti-corruption watchdog now.
He urged Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi not to resort to the use of ISA as it denied the accused’s right to be heard.
“Until today, some still think I am a militant,” he said of his detention under the ISA.
‘BN’s publicity exercise’
Ezam also called on both parties - Hindraf and police - to be accountable for their statements.
“Hindraf leaders need to be responsible in their words and the police need to substantiate their accusation of Hindraf’s terror links. If the police do have evidence, charge them in court and let them have a chance to defend themselves,” he added.
PKR information chief Tian Chua meanwhile described the police’s allegation as “ridiculous”.
“This is a serious state security issue. If the police suspect Hindraf leaders as having links with terrorists, they should have conducted a thorough investigation, get a conclusive answer and charge them in court with due process.
“But why is the police involved in this entire publicity exercise for the BN now and the police chief acting like a spokesperson for BN?” asked Chua, who was also detained along with Ezam and Saari under the ISA in 2001.
On the use of ISA against Hindraf leaders, Chua was uncertain whether it will lead to that stage.
“But if the prime minister does so, his efforts to be a more open-minded and liberal leader will go down the drain,” he stressed.
Abdullah, who is also the internal security minister, holds the discretion to sign the ISA detention order, which is renewable every two years.