Press Statement from SIARAM Adviser Kia Soong Kua on the detention of Bersih leader Maria Chin Abdullah
In 1987, the Mahathir government tried to justify the mass arrests and detentions without trial under Operation Lalang with a "White paper" on the supposed clandestine connections of all the people caught in the dragnet.
We called it a "Whitewash caper" over the detention without trial of Malaysian citizens – apart from the overall lie, it was filled with half-truths, distortions and generally, bad fiction.
Even Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez at the time (Now Malaysia’s first Cardinal) castigated the poor attempt at fiction writing:
"The White paper’s reference to the use of Liberation Theology by the so-called ‘Marxist Group’ appears to us a cheap imitation of the allegations of the Singapore Government against those arrested last year (1987) on similar charges."
Operation Lalang was really a cynical attempt by the Mahathir government to frighten the population and social activists into submission to the will of the state.
After it began, the Tunku declared, "Overnight, Malaysia has become a police state."
Only insecure regimes need detention without trial laws. That is why after finally being forced to jettison the ISA, the government finds the need to have SOSMA, POTA and POCA in its convenient box of tricks to deal with dissidents who think outside the box.
The same bad fiction in 2016
Maria was arrested under Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) a day before the Bersih 5 rally, for investigations under Section 124C of the Penal Code for attempting "activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy". This is tenuously linked to the fact that the electoral reform movement has received funds from the George Soros-linked Open Society Foundations.
The Inspector-General of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar has said that Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah’s detention under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act is not politically-motivated or related to the recent rally.
He said Maria was arrested following the discovery of "documents" during a raid at the Bersih office in Petaling Jaya last week.
"There were enough reasons for us to investigate her under Section 124C of the Penal Code, so we arrested her after the raid… The arrest was for a potential threat to national security…We all know what the OSF is and how many countries it has 'toppled' in its own ways," he said.
Khalid clarified that Sosma, unlike the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, has a wider scope and could be used against other forms of threats to national security.
UMNO information chief Annuar Musa has chipped in to claim that Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah has links to US intelligence bureau Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) through the tenuous connections of the NGOs she has worked for.
And what will 28 days of interrogation reveal?
First of all, what bearing does the view of this Umno leader have on police investigations? Secondly, what will 28 days of solitary confinement reveal when the Government’s six agencies already failed to pin any charges on SUARAM after more than six months of intense investigations over the same tenuous links in 2012 and 2013?
The UMNO chief Annuar has also pointed out that Maria was involved in human rights and feminist NGOs which are pro-LGBT, such as the Women's Development Collective (WDC), Empower and Sisters in Islam (SIS). Is that also subject to investigation under SOSMA? Is UMNO unaware that all these NGOs he has named are legitimate and legal organizations which have been operating in Malaysia for decades?
Government should be a good role model for integrity
To be "a society that is at peace with itself" (Vision 2020), the government cannot go on writing bad fiction. It must set itself up as a role model for integrity. Integrity springs from strong adherence to principles of truth, social justice and the rule of law.
We will never be at peace with ourselves as long as we continue to detain people without trial and proceed to justify this with lies, distortions and generally, bad fiction…