Malaysia may use harsh security law on protests: PM
Malaysia PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi warns of a tough colonial-era law to quell protests.india Updated: Nov 28, 2007 04:14 IST
Malaysia threatened on Tuesday to use a tough colonial-era security law, which allows for years of detention without trial, to stop a wave of street protests that have rocked the nation in recent weeks.
More than 10,000 ethnic Indians staged the minority community's biggest anti-government protest at the weekend to complain of racial discrimination.
Two weeks earlier, another crowd of about 10,000 people rallied in the capital to demand electoral reform ahead of possible early elections in the next few months. They were the biggest street demonstrations in a decade.
"The ISA (Internal Security Act) is a preventive measure to spare the nation from untoward incidents that can harm the prevailing peace and harmony and create all sorts of adverse things," the official Bernama news agency quoted Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as saying.
"The ISA will be there. When it is appropriate to use it, it will be used," said Abdullah, who is also Internal Security Minister overseeing the police.
Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum had on Monday raised the possibility of using the ISA, a colonial-era law first aimed at curbing a 1960s communist revolt, to clamp down on street protests.
A group seeking abolition of the law condemned Johari's remarks and urged the government to free 74 people detained under the law for several years.
"The ISA is indefensible and unjustifiable in any circumstances and should be abolished immediately," said Syed Ibrahim, who heads the campaign against the law.
The detainees include suspected Islamic militants, some in custody since the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Ethnic Indians have complained of a lack of educational and business opportunities, saying a government affirmative-action policy in favour of majority ethnic Malays had marginalised them.
(Reporting by Jalil Hamid, Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)