Activists protest political repression in Malaysia

Activists protest political repression in Malaysia
Wed, Jul 06, 2011 -Taipei Times, Page 3 

Human rights advocates yesterday protested at the Malaysian representative office in Taiwan and submitted a letter demanding an end to what they called the mass repression of pro-reform activists in the Southeast Asian country.

Led by Amnesty International (AI) Taiwan and the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), the protesters urged the Malaysian government to release detained activists and respect freedom of speech and assembly for Malaysians.

Since June 24, more than 100 activists have been arrested or questioned by police over their support of an election reform rally, which was initially scheduled for Saturday by the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, also known as “Bersih 2.0,” or “clean” in Malay.

“People in Malaysia are witnessing what Taiwanese experienced 30 years ago during the White Terror period, when a democratic system did not exist and civil rights were not respected. This is why we are here today to voice out our support,” TAHR secretary-general Tsai Chi-hsun (蔡季勳) said.

The civil rights advocates particularly focused on the Internal Security Act (ISA), which they said has been used as a tool for the Malaysian government to oppress activists, allowing police to detain anyone suspected of threatening national security for as long as 60 days.

“The ISA in Malaysia is like the martial law in Taiwan. Both law legalize state violence against the people, which is not right,” AI Taiwan deputy director Tony Yang (楊宗澧) said.

Under the watchful eye of dozens of Taipei police, protesters condemned the Malaysian government’s detention of activists accused of “waging war against the king” and shouted the slogans of “Shame on you, Malaysian government” and “Abolish ISA” in front of the Malaysian Friendship and Trade Center building.

Rohayu binti Md Saad, personal assistant of the office’s president, was sent to accept the letter and said the message would be relayed back to Kuala Lumpur as soon as possible.
However, she said there was no guarantee of an immediate response.
Unexpectedly attending the rally was Chua Tian-chang, a member of the Malaysian parliament and the vice president of the People’s Justice Party — the largest opposition party in Malaysia.
It has been very difficult for opposition parties and reformists to participate in politics in Malaysia, where unfair elections and dirty tactics against the opposition are the norm, the 46-year-old Chua said.