Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on
Monday, 24th November 2008:
Stop the attack on civil society &
press; institute IPCMC now
I strongly condemn the use of force by the
police against the peaceful demonstrators and arbitrary arrests of seven
people who had gathered in Ampang late Sunday to call for the repeal of
the Internal Security Act (ISA).
According to eye-witness reports the anti-riot police moved in on a
small group of protestors as they were preparing to disperse following a
speech by PAS Vice President Mohammad Sabu, who told the crowd that no
police permit was given for the gathering.
This is a repeat of the clampdown by police in Petaling Jaya two weeks
ago against peaceful demonstrators who were preparing to end their
candle light vigil following the national anthem.
This reflects the highhandedness of the police force, abuse of power and
non-tolerance to dissent by the government. Although it is clear that
the police act upon orders of their political masters, it is time they
understand that they do not work for the government.
While the police are quick to arrest opposition politicians, human
rights workers and members of the civil society, they act as protectors
during streets protests organised by ruling parties and groups which
support the government.
The police force stood guard for 500 people who demonstrated early
Sunday along Jalan Tun Razak, backing the government on the use of the
ISA. This is blatant double standard.
I would like to send a clear message to the representatives and members
of the Heritage Associations, Malay Cultural Organisations and Related
Bodies Cooperation Network (Pewaris) - the ISA must go.
It is an outdated relic. The unvarnished truth is that the government
uses it to silence the voice of dissidents in the country as it allows
for detention without trial. Denying a person the right to legal
representation goes against the fundamental principles of democracy and
has no place in a modern democracy.
To believe lies fed by the government that ISA helps to prevent the
outbreak of problems that might hamper national security is nonsensical.
We are also noticing a disturbing
trend during street protests - friends from the media told me that they
were shoved and shouted at by the policemen during the ISA rally in
Journalists, cameramen and photographers have been targeted by the
police since the unprecedented electoral gains by the opposition at the
March general election. Local and foreign media workers have been beaten
and also verbally abused prompting them to lodge police reports and
submit a memorandum in Parliament.
The attacks against journalists must stop.
Let us look at what the government is doing - it is tightening the noose
on democratic space, using preventive laws to jail dissidents and vocal
critics, clamping down on the peoples' rights to freedom of speech and
expression and attacking journalists.
These are not attributes of a progressive government. It does not just
reflect retrogressive approaches but gives us glimpses of the future
government under the leadership of current deputy Prime Minister Najib
It shows a nervous government banking on fear tactics to stay in power.
But what UMNO and its ruling allies fail to observe is the perseverance
of the people. The anti-ISA candle light vigils and rallies have not
stopped in the face of threats of arrests.
In reality, people are taking bold decisions to voice their
dissatisfaction with the ruling government, preventive laws, abuse of
police and ministerial powers, corruption and cronyism.
Let us keep at our efforts to abolish the draconian ISA. Let us come
together and demand for the setting up the Independent Police Complaints
and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).
I also strongly urge the police to unconditionally release the seven
protestors, Hindraf Five and all other ISA detainees.
* Teresa Kok Suh Sim, DAP National Organising Secretary
& MP for Seputeh