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Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Wednesday, 12th May 2010:

ISA threat violates freedom of choice & climate of peaceful by-elections in Sibu

The warning by Sarawak CID chief SAC II Huzir Mohamed that the Internal Security Act (ISA) could be used against any campaigners for raising the Allah issue during the by election campaign in Sibu is beyond the pale.

His outrageous threat comes in the wake of a Christian gathering with Pakatan Rakyat leaders who raised the issue against a blanket ban on the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims.

The ISA and other preventive laws have been repeatedly used by the ruling UMNO-led government to keep a lid on dissent and stay in power. The law allows for detention without trial, and is designed to create a culture of fear in the country.

The ISA has been also used to silence legitimate opposition to the government and the victims are opposition politicians, rights activists, journalists and bloggers.

Such measures are ancient. The people want to know the truth.

I pledge support with my colleagues from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Pakatan Rakyat who have courageously vowed to tell the public the truth and defy any move to subvert the campaign.

Open discussions and public debates are essential to find durable solutions to crucial issues in the country. The Allah debate is one such issue.

Meanwhile using threats of violence and intimidation as a means to divert attention from pertinent issues is a violation of civil and political rights and deny the people their right to information.

The by-election campaigns in the country have been nothing but smear tactics against opposition politicians by the government. Ruling political leaders have raised numerous issues bordering on race and religion for votes as they were clearly speaking from a catbird seat.

One textbook example is the consistent use of Malay supremacy and Malay rights by UMNO politicians as it has the potential to stir racial unrest in Malaysia, a country with fragile race-relations.

However, in these instances the police have kept silent and the leaders who spoke on sensitive issues have gone scot-free.

This has to stop and I, therefore, urge the CID chief to immediately revoke the threat of using the ISA against political parties and individuals.

I also reiterate my call for the repeal of the ISA as it negates the right to a legal counsel and open trial.

* Charles Santiago MP for Klang



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