Malaysia urged to scrap security law, release activists


KUALA LUMPUR, Reuters

An Asian democracy lobby group called on Monday for Malaysia to scrap a security law allowing detention without trial and urged the government to release six activists held for two months under the act.

Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA), which police used in early April to lock up 10 supporters of jailed former finance minister Anwar Ibrahim, has come under fire recently with a judge and the national human rights commission among its critics.

Tioulong Saumura, a Cambodian member of parliament and representative of the Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia (ARDA), expressed surprise Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad would support such a law.

“I can’t understand that such an educated, far-sighted leader such as Dr. Mahathir still clings to an archaic law that is the remains of British colonial rule,” she told a news conference after an ARDA fact-finding mission into the ISA detentions.

Protests against the authorities’ use of the ISA have spread abroad recently.

Human rights activists in Hong Kong held a protest and held a 24-hour hunger strike last Friday to demand the release of the six detainees. Similar protests were held in London and Sydney.

The 13-country ARDA campaigns for democracy, human rights, good governance and the rule of law across Asia and elsewhere.

Malaysian police accused the detained activists of planning a campaign of violence to topple the government.

Of the 10 detained under the ISA in April, police released two of them and a judge ordered another two freed nearly two weeks ago. The government has given police clearance to hold four others for up to two more years.

Authorities have not said what they intend to do with the two other detainees.

Anwar is serving 15 years for sodomy and corruption convictions he says were fabricated to stop a challenge to Mahathir. The prime minister says Anwar’s trials were fair.