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Tough security laws unleashed on Malaysians

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On 13 December the government of Malaysia unleashed the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) on five organisers of the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), which led a peaceful rally calling for ethnic minority rights held in Kuala Lumpur in November. Malaysia has breached two fundamental freedoms: right to freedom of expression and assembly.

The Internal Security Act, formerly used to deal with communist “terrorists” during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), continues to be used against political dissidents, and allows for prolonged detention without charge. The five, including four lawyers, were sent to the Kamunting Detention Camp, 300km north of the capital city, for a period of two years although they had not been charged in any court of law for any crime.

Earlier, 31 Malaysian Indians who took part in a protest related to HINDRAF outside Batu Caves temple, a tourist destination north of Kuala Lumpur, faced an attempted murder charge against a policeman who suffered head injuries during the rally.

Malaysiakini reported that HINDRAF had mustered at least 30,000 people to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to highlight various issues including a lack of economic opportunities and the destruction of Hindu temples. Police used tear gas, water cannon and baton charges to break up the protests. The group has also been alleged by the government to have had “terrorist” links.

Local and international human rights groups have long called for the repeal of Malaysia’s ISA from being used to violate human rights. However, the government has rejected all pleas by the international community and civil society, and vowed more arrests under the ISA in order to maintain security ahead of possible elections early next year.