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MALAYSIA – More than 70 arrested for protesting against “illegal” state assembly

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wong_chin_huat.jpgOn 7 May, Malaysian police went on a frenzy and
nabbed more than 70 people, including civil activists and lawyers, who
protested the sitting of the Perak (northen) state legislature assembly, which
was deem "unconstitutional" as the case of who is its chief minister was yet to
be decided by the High Court.
On 6 May, well-known social activist and newspaper columnist Wong Chin
Huat was detained under the Sedition Act for asking Malaysians to "wear black"
to protest the state sitting, as citizens wanted a fresh state elections, so
they could decide who to govern them.

Wong, who is also a Journalism lecturer, spent three nights in jail
without access to his lawyer. His activist friends, including those from
SUARAM, a FORUM-ASIA member, who held candlelight vigils for his release
outside the prison were detained too. Lawyers who went there to represent their
clients were nabbed as well.

Although police released all detainees on 8 May, the world watched in
disbelief how legal eagles could be jailed for attempting to communicate with
their clients or wearing black, something beyond the imagination of any right
thinking democracy.

Even a member of Malaysia's ruling coalition, the Malaysian Chinese
Association (or MCA) legal bureau chairman Leong Tang Cheong lambasted the
police for "abuse of Police Power" and said it was a direct affront to the laws
of the country and must be condemned".

The Perak crisis took place following a power grab of the state
leadership by Prime Minister Najib Razak in February. Before that, the state
was governed by the People's Alliance, a coalition of Opposition parties.

Najib's move was abetted by the Perak Ruler Sultan Azlan Shah, former
Lord President, who ought to know the legalities of the issues. But instead of
calling for a dissolution of the state assembly, the Ruler permitted it to
convene on that fateful day.

The royal decision
led to chaos in the Assembly. House speaker V. Sivakumar of the People's Alliance was
dragged out violently out of his seat and barred from entering the premises.

He was replaced by another speaker, R.Ganesan, from the
National Alliance, Najib's party.

What ensued after that was a shouting match, where
insults were traded, and decency became cheap. Microphones were switched off,
flower pots went flying, pepper spray used, while women state reps cried sexual

It was a "political
tragedy of the worst imaginable kind", said Tunku Aziz, renowned former
vice-chairman of the Malaysian Chapter of Transparency International. 

"I never for a
moment thought I should live to see the day when a traditional hereditary ruler
of a Malay State has taken such a rapid slide in his people's estimation,
approbation and adulation as has the Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak", lamented
Aziz, who is also a senator in Penang. 

Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of
Judges and Lawyers Param Cumarasamy described the situation as a "crisis
leading to anarchy".

must not only be above politics but must be seen to be so", said Param, who
addressed a letter to the Prime Minister.

(Photo courtesy of Malaysiakini)