Friday, September 12, 2008

An uphill task to justify ISA arrests

An uphill task to justify ISA arrests
13 Sept, 2008

(The Malaysian Insider) More than 100 politicians, social activists and religious officials were picked up in Operation Lalang in 1987 as discussion about race and religion threatened to boil over.

Malaysia's Special Branch said that the racial tension in parts of the country and among certain groups in the last few days were coming close to the pre-Operation Lalang level and warned Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar that if nothing was done, the country would be on the brink of a disaster.

The Malaysian Insider has learnt that Syed Hamid briefed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on the intelligence reports by the Special Branch.

Government ministers were also told that the Ahmad Ismail episode and the resulting debate and his three year suspension from holding positions in Umno for describing Malaysian Chinese as immigrants was causing "some movement among Malay groups'' including Pekida, Pertubuhan Kebajikan dan Dakwah Islamiah SeMalaysia.

Yesterday the police arrested prominent blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, Sin Chew Daily News journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and popular DAP MP Teresa Kok under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Several reasons were given by the police for their detention apart from Muslim groups agitating for action to be taken against the blogger for posting articles which they allege was blasphemous and ridiculed the position of Islam.

Tan has come under fire for doing her job. She covered the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign for Sin Chew and was the' reporter who wrote a short article on Ahmad's reckless comments about Chinese and their status in Malaysia. This article set off a debate, put the PM on the defensive and created tension within the Barisan Nasional.

Only a decision by the Umno Supreme Council to suspend the Umno division chief from all party positions for three years calmed the raw nerves in the ruling coalition and the Chinese community.

The decision by the police to arrest the messenger ~ Tan ~ has not gone down well with non-Malays.

They are speculating that she is a sacrificial lamb to appease the Malay ground upset that the non-Malay lobby appeared to have got the upper hand in the Ahmad Ismail episode.

Sources told The Malaysian Insider that Ahmad also could be detained under the ISA.

The most puzzling arrest was that involving Teresa Kok. She was accused by former Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Khir Toyo of telling mosque officials in a few suburbs in Selangor to tone down the call to prayer.

She denied the accusation but the Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia went to town with the report. Utusan was not among the three newspapers given show cause letters by the Home Ministry on Friday.

It also escaped censure and closure in 1987. Over the next few days, government ministers are expected to justify the use of the ISA, pointing to the precarious security situation in the country.

Like 1987, they will have their work cut out convincing Malaysians and foreigners that they acted for the good of all.

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