Saturday, December 15, 2007

Anwar Ibrahim Slams ‘Law Of The Jungle’ In Malaysia, Vows To Abolish ISA

Facing a torrent of criticism for invoking the dreaded Internal Security Act to arrest five ethnic Indian leaders, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said on Friday he had acted to protect public order and national security.

In comments put out by the official news agency Bernama, Badawi said, “Our action is justified. We have to take action if something undesirable to national security and public safety happens.”

Five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), which is campaigning against race-based discrimination and economic marginalisation faced by ethnic Indians in Malaysia, were arrested on Thursday under a colonial-era law that allows for indefinite detention without trial.

The arrests drew an avalanche of criticism from Opposition leaders, including former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim who was himself detained under the ISA during Mahathir Mohamed’s tenure. Ibrahim termed it a “law of the jungle” and vowed to abolish it if his party came to power.

“I too disagree with a few things (that Hindraf leaders say they stand for),” Ibrahim said. “But what about the welfare of the Indian community? What about the Indian poor? What about the Hindu temples that the government is demolishing?

The US State Department also called for “due process” of law to be applied to the five Hindraf leaders detained under ISA. “Our expectation… is that these individuals would be provided the full protections under Malaysian law, that they would be given due process, that they would be accorded all the rights accorded to any other citizen, and that this be done in a speedy and transparent manner,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

The international human rights watchdog agency Human Rights Watch too called for the abolishment of the ISA.

But Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Malaysia, who briefed heads of foreign missions in Malaysia, said Malaysia was free to invoke the ISA against those who posed a threat to the nation. He cautioned other countries from “interfering” in Malaysia’s internal affairs.

On Friday, a group of Indian NGOs and community leaders, including Malaysian Indian Congress president Samy Vellu, met Badawi. According to one of the leaders who attended the closed-door meeting, the delegation requested Badawi to drop ISA charges against the five Hindraf leaders and instead have them tried in an open court. Badawi promised to “look into it”, the leader added.

Also on Friday, relatives of the five arrested leaders met them in at the detention camp. (DNA)
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