The crackdown on Malaysiakini a triple blow to Malaysia - marking a new climax of post-911 authoritarian syndrome trampling on democracy and human rights, contempt for the MSC Bill of Guarantees of no Internet censorship and major setback for K-economy Master Plan to enhance international competitiveness

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): I was on my way to Damar Laut, Segari, Perak for the DAP Perak state leadership retreat yesterday when I was informed of the police raid on the Malaysiakini office by 12 police officers because of an UMNO Youth police report on sedition last Friday against a letter published by the Malaysian internet news site on January 9.

During the course of my journey, I kept in touch with the Malaysiakini staff including the editor Steven Gan on the police raid, which ended with the high-handed police action in removing 19 computers from Malaysiakini, which effectively shut down Malaysiakini operations.

I returned to Kuala Lumpur and visited Malaysiakini at Bangsar Utama when the two-hour candlelight vigil last night was ending, but from the high spirits and solidarity of the supporters for the online news site, whether from opposition political parties, NGOs or concerned individuals, it is clear that the unprecedented police action would not be able to cow or crush Malaysiakini or the yearnings of Malaysians for greater freedom of speech, expression and information.

Malaysiakini should be commended for symbolizing this indomitable spirit and refusal to be cowed by repressive and high-handed police actions when it resumed publication 10 hours after the police shut-down, showing that the police closure by removing all its 19 computers was only a temporary one.

The police crackdown on Malaysiakini is a triple blow to Malaysia - marking a new climax of post-911 authoritarian syndrome trampling on democracy and human rights, contempt for the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Bill of Guarantees to the world of no Internet censorship and a major setback for the K-economy Master Plan to enhance the nation's international competitiveness.

I do not believe that the police would have acted in yesterday's high-handed manner in trying to effectively shut down Malaysiakini if the September 11 terrorist events had not occurred, as the terrorist attacks in the United States have spawned a post-911 authoritarian syndrome among certain incumbent governments to be even more bold and blatant in their crackdown on democracy and human rights.

It seems to be a trait of Barisan Nasional governance that bad and awful things usually happens when the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is out of the country - as he is currently overseas visiting Lebanon and Egypt.

In yesterday's Malaysiakini incident, was the intent to demonstrate that the Home Minister and Prime Minister-to-be in nine months' time, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, could be a "tough guy" despite his "nice guy" image, or is this Mahathir's way to groom Abdullah to become a "tough" Prime Minister on democracy and human rights when the latter takes over the reins of government in October?

Be that as it may, the police crackdown on Malaysiakini has made nonsense of the MSC Bill of Guarantees of no Internet censorship - as how can the government claim that there is no Internet censorship when the police can remove all the 19 computers of Malaysiakini which could have no conceivable relationship to the police investigations, as to effectively shut down its operations?

There is in fact no need for the police to remove any single computer, as Malaysiakini had not disputed the fact that it had published the letter which was the subject of the UMNO Youth police report.

At a time when Malaysia is struggling to attract dwindling foreign direct investments (China received a record US$52.74 billion in FDI while Malaysia had a record low of less than US$2 billion in 2002) as well as to attract skilled Malaysians who are abroad as well as skilled foreigners to Malaysia to power Malaysia's K-economy masterplan, the police crackdown on Malaysiakini has again catapulted Malaysia into a new international notoriety - which are inimical to the success of all recent efforts to enhance Malaysia's international competitiveness.

The Cabinet should intervene before irreparable damage is done to Malaysia's ambition to be a world-class K-economy and IT power - by directing the police at its meeting tomorrow to abide by the MSC Bill of Guarantees of no Internet censorship, that the police conduct its investigations into the UMNO Youth report without cripplying the operations of Malaysiakini and should immediately return all the 19 computers seized from the Malaysiakini office yesterday.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman