Media Conference Statement by Lim Kit Siang on ISA arrests of Teresa Kok, Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Tan Hoon Cheng held at DAP PJ Hqrs on Saturday, 13rd September 2008: 

Call on Abdullah to withdraw from the precipice of a new Malaysian dark age – release Teresa, RPK and Tan from ISA immediately and cancel the show cause notice to three newspapers

DAP leaders, MPs and State Assembly representatives are gathered in this media conference, together with the parents of Teresa Kok, DAP National Organising Secretary, Selangor Senior Exco Member and MP for Seputeh, to condemn in the strongest possible terms the arrest under the Internal Security Act (ISA) of Teresa, Raja Petra Kamaruddin and the senior Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng.

We deplore these ISA arrest and attacks on the media and the blogosphere which also constitute a violation of the Multimedia Super Corridor Bill of Guarantees of no Internet censorship, as the ISA detention of the RPK, the live wire of Malaysia Today news portal, is as good as Internet censorship despite formal government unblocking of the news portal.

Instead of a 916 “sky change” or “political change”, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has orchestrated a 912 “sky-change” of his own, with the ISA arrests and threats to the media and the blogosphere, marking the failure of his premiership to usher in a more open, accountable and democratic administration.

It shows how little things have changed in his five years as Prime Minister – with hardly any structural and institutional reforms or changes as all the repressive laws and institutions have remained intact, just kept in abeyance awaiting to be reactivated, as has happened!

The former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad took more than six years to abandon his “ABC” (clean, trustworthy and efficient) façade with the 1987 Ops Lalang, putting 106 people under ISA and closing three newspapers.

However, Abdullah took less than five years since becoming Prime Minister to show his face of repression by initiating the current crackdown, up-to-now a mini-Ops Lalang with three ISA arrests and against three newspapers.

This 2008 mini-Ops Lalang is completely unjustified and unacceptable for two reasons:

(i) going against Abdullah’s 2004 general election landslide mandate based on his reform pledges and undertaking to break from the Mahathir past of repressive rule; and

(ii) a totally synthetic crisis arising from gross misgovernance, as there is no national crisis, no racial tension or religious strain unlike the pre-Operation Lalang 1987 which saw serious racial tension resulting from a sustained and systematic campaign of polarization by irresponsible elements.

It is the height of irresponsibility to create a synthetic national crisis when the country was faced with a grave economic crisis and the national focus of the government-of-the-day should be to lead all Malaysians to address the economic crisis.

Abdullah is facing a personal political crisis, as evident from the open call by the Umno Vice President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin on him to step down as Prime Minister earlier than his timeframe of mid-2010 and the support given by Umno Deputy President Datuk Seri Najib Razak to Muhyiddin.

However, Abdullah’s personal political crisis as to whether he would have to step down as Prime Minister much earlier than the June-2010 timeline under his “power transition” plan cannot be made an excuse to create a synthetic crisis to justify the use of draconian laws and powers like the ISA and to engender conditions to stamp out attempts by Umno leaders to bring forward his timetable to relinquish the Prime Minister’s post.

All fair-minded and right-thinking Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation, reject the use of ISA for the arrest of RPK, Tan Hoon Cheng and Teresa Kok.

RPK’s writings are open and public. He should be charged in court if he had contravened any laws of the land, affording him the opportunity to defend himself in an open trial. The detention-without-trial ISA should not be used against RPK, as it is not only undemocratic and repressive but a clear case of abuse of power.

The detention of Sin Chew reporter Tan Hoon Cheng has evoked all-round outrage by Malays as well as non-Malays, Muslims and non-Muslims.

Everyone in Malaysia is asking – why Ahmad Ismail, the person who had made the provocative, inflammatory and racist reference to the Chinese in Malaysia is not acted against but the reporter, Tan Hoon Cheng, is detainded under the ISA just for reporting what Ahmad said? What has Malaysia become when the most elementary notions of justice and fair play have become alien notions to the leaders in government?

Teresa’s ISA detention is most ludicrous. She had been accused by the former Selangor Mentri Besar Khir Toyo of wanting to ban the azan in a certain locality in Selangor, which was played up by Utusan Malaysia. Teresa immediately denied the allegation, which was backed up by the mosque committee concerned and the PAS MP for the area also lodged a police report against Khir for the baseless allegation.

If action should be taken, the person who should be the target should be Khor Toyo. Why was Teresa detained under the ISA?

Last night, Teresa was informed at about nine something that she could be on the blacklist of ISA arrests, with the suggestion she go into hiding. Teresa refused as she believed that there is no reason why she should go into hiding as she had not done anything wrong to the country and she was fully prepared to face any ISA arrest. I am very proud of her. I am reminded of my first ISA arrest in 1969 when some party leaders advised me not to return to Kuala Lumpur from Kota Kinabalu as I was on the ISA blacklist. I refused to run away from the country, as I maintained that when the people was going through their darkest hour, the place for me was in the country with them.

The country has been swirling with speculation as to who else were on the ISA blacklist. Among the names mentioned were the DAP Secretary-General and Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng and myself.

Teresa has already become the first woman MP to be detained under the ISA. Is Abdullah to create another history by having the first Chief Minister in Malaysia to be detained under the ISA?

I call on Abdullah or the Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar to publicly declare who are on the ISA blacklist to be detained, whether Guan Eng and I are on the list. I will not go into hiding if I am on the list. There is no need for any cat-and-mouse game. Just make it public.

Cabinet Ministers should explain whether the three ISA arrests and action against the three newspapers had received Cabinet approval as Ministers like the Information Minister, Shabery Cik have openly defended the ISA arrest of RPK.

I call on Malaysians to be calm and go about their usual business peacefully and normally. They should not allow themselves to be provoked although there are irresponsible elements who want to engineer another May 13 or another full-scale Ops Lallang.

Malaysia in 2008 is completely different from 1969 when certain elements succeeded in creating a scenario of racial confrontation between the Malays and the Chinese over the May 13 incident. There is no racial confrontation in Malaysia of 2008, as the Pakatan Rakyat comprises all races – Malays, Chinese and Indians – and all religions!

I also want to call on Abdullah to pull back from the precipice of a new Malaysian dark age. Release Teresa, RPK and Tan from ISA immediately and cancel the show cause notice to the three newspapers concerned, or his premiership wll be stained forever by the repression and dark age of 912 - September 12, 2008.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor