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Threats by Prime Minister himself to use ISA against peaceful demonstrators the nadir of the four-year broken pledges by Abdullah premiership on democracy, human rights, accountability, incorruptibility and preparedness to hear the truth from the people

Media Conference           
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Wednesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi returned from the Kampala Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and threatened to use the nefarious law, the Internal Security Act (ISA), against peaceful demonstrators – marking a new nadir of the four-year broken pledges by the Abdullah premiership on democracy, human rights, accountability, incorruptibility and preparedness to hear the truth from the people.

Yesterday, Aljazeera reported the controversy in Japan over the Education Ministry’s latest effort to revise school history textbooks on one of the most notorious wartime incidents in Japan, where the Japanese military ordered and sometimes forced the islanders to commit suicide during the US invasion of Okinawa in the closing days of the Second World War. There was a peaceful demonstration of more than 100,000 people in Okinawa to protest against the Japanese Education Ministry’s instruction to textbook publishers to edit out all references to the military’s role in the mass suicides.

Abdullah wants Malaysians to have “First-World Infrastructure, First-World Mentality” and not “First-World Infrastructure, Third-World Mentality” and it is time for the government to set the example of such “First-World Mentality” and mindset by accepting the important role of peaceful demonstrations in a first-world developed nation like Japan, United Kingdom, Australia and United States for their citizenry to exercise their democratic rights on freedom of expression and assembly.

What chance and hope of Malaysia becoming a nation with “First-World Mentality” when the government is the worst culprit of having “Third-World” and even “Fourth-World” mindsets, as in threatening to invoke the notorious Internal Security Act?

Many have asked whether mass ISA arrests like the infamous Operation Lalang in 1987, which led to major assaults on the independence and integrity of the judiciary, the emasculation of press freedom and the suppression of a vibrant civil society, is possible under Abdullah’s premiership.

With Abdullah’s threat to use the ISA yesterday, such a scenario now appears more and more likely - and I call on Abdullah to make clear his real stand on democracy, human rights, accountability, incorruptibility and preparedness to hear the truth from the people.

DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Bukit Mertajam, Chong Eng and I were at the Selayang magistrate’s court this morning where some 60 people who had been detained at the Batu Caves Temple on Sunday’s Hindraf demonstration and had been released on bail were waiting to be charged for an illegal assembly.

I met many of them and found that they are mostly respectable and law-abiding Malaysian citizens, business people, technicians, contractors, clerks and even executive and management officers, a group of people who cannot be further from the term “penyangak” used by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz yesterday.

Referring to the Hindraf demonstration, Nazri said:

Some 20,000 penyangak (crooks) who participated in the rally would not jeopardize our viewpoint of the entire community.”

I am shocked and saddened by Nazri’s language, condemning the 30,000 decent and respectable people who came from all over the country to peacefully and collectively express their cry of desperation for justice at the long-standing neglect and discrimination of their rights as Malaysian citizens.

Who is a penyangak? Kamus Dewan defines “penyangak” as “pencuri, penjahat”.

Does the MIC President, Datuk Seri Samy Vellu and all MIC members of the administration, whether Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Secretary, MP or Senator, agree with Nazri that the 30,000 people who turned up for the Hindraf demonstration on Sunday are crooks and rogues, and that the Hindraf rally was a “gathering of crooks”?

Nazri should apologize unconditionally for this insult, not only to the 30,000 people at the Hindraf demonstration but also to the entire Indian community and Malaysian nation. Samy Vellu and the entire MIC team in the administration should insist that Nazri withdraw the term and apologize for it without any qualification whatsoever.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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