Sabtu, 13 September 2008

Malaysian arrests draw protests

Police in Malaysia are still holding an opposition politician and an online blogger after a wave of arrests to try to crack down on dissent.

Three people were detained on Friday under the country's stringent internal security act - which means they can be held indefinitely, without trial.

Raja Petra Kamarudin, file pic from May 2008
Malaysian blogger Raja Petra was detained along with Teresa Kok

A vigil has been held near Kuala Lumpur for the politician still being held.

Supporters gathered in a quiet residential backstreet outside their party HQ to light candles and pray.

Many of them were still shell-shocked.

They shouted "free Teresa" and "abolish the ISA".

Power struggle

Teresa Kok is the member of parliament who was detained on suspicion of stoking racial tension, a very sensitive subject in multi-ethnic Malaysia.

But her supporters believe she is a victim of the bigger picture.

The government here is struggling to stay in power and is using the draconian powers of the much-criticised internal security act to put critics in jail and send out a strong message.

One man told me it is a desperate measure:

"I think they are panicking for whatever they are doing now, they are running out of options, and they are trying whatever way that they can to maintain their power."

The opposition won historic levels of support in a general election earlier this year and since then it has been threatening to bring down the government by persuading parliamentarians to defect.

It has huge momentum behind it, and its leaders say they will not be intimidated.

"The government must be deluded if they think that they can break us because we will not be broken, we will not be bent," said senior opposition politician Lim Guan Eng.

"We will fight on because the people's destiny is that stake."

A cabinet minister justified one of the arrests by saying the journalist had been detained for her own safety.

She has now been released but the two others remain in jail, indefinitely.

Malaysia has faced brisk condemnation from abroad.

In Washington, the US state department demanded an explanation.

But the government in Kuala Lumpur is fighting to stay afloat, and it will not go down without a fight.

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