Malaysia’s Anwar condemns arrests ahead of rally
KUALA LUMPUR – Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim Sunday condemned the arrest of a lawmaker and five activists in Malaysia under a tough security law ahead of a planned rally to demand free and fair elections.
The six members of the Socialist Party of Malaysia are being held under the Emergency Ordinance, which allows indefinite detention without trial. They were arrested by police on June 25.
Their detention is part of a major nationwide crackdown by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government to stop the rally on July 9 in the capital Kuala Lumpur.
Activists said over the past week about 100 opposition members including members of Anwar’s Keadilan party and rights activists had been arrested in relation to promoting the rally and for wearing yellow t-shirts with the words “Bersih 2.0”. But many had since been freed.
“I condemn the detention of Sungai Siput MP Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj and five others under the emergency ordinance. Michael Jeyakumar’s arrest is a disgrace to democracy in the country,” Anwar said in a statement.
“I demand the immediate release of all those being held in relation to the election reform rally,” he added.
Najib has defended the tough police action to stop the rally, and denied Malaysia was moving away from democratic practices.
“Rallies have a tendency to bring about a mob psychology. It can turn people of good behaviour into mobs. That is why we cannot take it lightly,” he was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper Friday.
Organisers of the rally have refused to back down, saying the right to assemble is enshrined in the constitution despite “Bersih”, a collection of 62 non-governmental organisations, being declared illegal.
Organisers have said the gathering will be peaceful.
Street protests are rare in Malaysia and police often act swiftly to stop demonstrations.
S. Arutchelvan, secretary general of the Socialist Party of Malaysia told AFP that he expects security forces to deploy a strong force around the capital to stop the rally.
“I expect a major lockdown of the capital as the police will attempt to stop people from gathering,” he said.
“Why is Najib so paranoid?. This is the first time in Malaysia a mass arrest is being done to stop a rally. A popular leader will not do it,” he said.
“I believe the rally will go on. A lot of people will attend,” he added.
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