Malaysia ac­cused of ‘abuse of law’ in rally crack­down

The Myanmar Times - - World -

RIGHTS groups con­demned Malaysia’s govern­ment for a crack­down on or­gan­is­ers of last week­end’s antigov­ern­ment rally, in­clud­ing the ar­rest of the protest leader un­der a tough law aimed at ter­ror­ism.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple flooded Kuala Lumpur with the yel­low colours of the re­formist move­ment on Novem­ber 19 to de­mand Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak re­sign and face jus­tice over a mas­sive cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

Au­thor­i­ties ar­rested more than a dozen peo­ple be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the demon­stra­tion, in­clud­ing Maria Chin Ab­dul­lah, the leader of the “Ber­sih” civil so­ci­ety al­liance that staged the rally.

Most de­tainees have been re­leased but Ms Chin re­mains in soli­tary con­fine­ment un­der a na­tional se­cu­rity law that al­lows de­ten­tion with­out charge for 28 days and can bring a lengthy prison sen­tence.

Six Asian hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tions in a joint state­ment called the crack­down a grave breach of ba­sic rights. The state­ment was re­leased by the Asian Fo­rum for Hu­man Rights and De­vel­op­ment, the Asia Pa­cific Fo­rum on Women, Law and De­vel­op­ment, For­tify Rights, Hu­man Rights Watch, the In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion of Jurists, and the South­east Asian Press Al­liance.

The groups said they were es­pe­cially “alarmed” at Ms Chin’s de­ten­tion un­der a na­tional se­cu­rity law in­tro­duced in 2012 by Mr Na­jib’s govern­ment with a prom­ise it would not be used against po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents.

The protest was the sec­ond in 15 months by Ber­sih to high­light al­le­ga­tions that bil­lions of dol­lars were plun­dered from sovereign fund 1MDB, Mr Na­jib’s pet in­vest­ment project.

Mr Na­jib, 63, and 1MDB deny wrong­do­ing. But the US Jus­tice Depart­ment ear­lier this year de­tailed an au­da­cious cam­paign of fraud and money-laun­der­ing by his fam­ily, as­so­ciates and an un­named “Malaysian Of­fi­cial 1” – a thinly veiled ref­er­ence to Mr Na­jib.

Mr Na­jib last year abruptly fired the at­tor­ney gen­eral and shut down do­mes­tic in­ves­ti­ga­tions. His govern­ment has in­creas­ingly throt­tled the me­dia and whis­tle-blow­ers to con­tain the scan­dal.

Ber­sih, in a state­ment, said Ms Chin was be­ing held in a tiny win­dow­less cell with no mattress.

It called for in­ter­na­tional pres­sure on au­thor­i­ties and said nightly vig­ils would be held on her be­half at cen­tral Kuala Lumpur’s In­de­pen­dence Square.

Crit­ics ac­cuse Mr Na­jib’s govern­ment of tram­pling rights fol­low­ing a 2013 elec­tion in which his rul­ing coali­tion lost the pop­u­lar vote.

Photo: AFP

Maria Chin is be­ing held un­der a tough anti-ter­ror­ism law.

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