Malaysia: Socialists had no case to answer

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PSM deputy president M. Sarasvathy celebrates her release. Photo by Alex Cheong.

By the Socialist Party of Malaysia

August 2, 2011 -- Parti Sosialis Malaysia -- The release of six Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM, Socialist Party of Malaysia) detainees five days ago does not signal the return of sanity and goodwill to the government. It was a calculated move to minimise the damage done to the country’s image at home and abroad.

The government did not apologise for perpetrating a grievous injustice on the victims. Instead, the prime minister has issued a veiled threat that the ball is now in the court of his attorney-general who will decide on the next course of action. So the freed detainees have not been let off the hook. The political bosses have realised that using the Emergency Ordinance (EO) against the detainees was wrong and illegal. Yet it is unlikely that the authorities will admit to their mistakes. They will build up another case against the freed detainees just so to save face. They simply cannot accept the fact that they have bungled the job.

While the six peace-loving citizens were the “guests” of the government, they were lumped together like so many “criminals” who deserved only harsh treatment. Reports of what happened to them under police custody had filtered out and the allegations of ill treatment cannot be dismissed lightly. They were “blindfolded, kept in solitary confinement, handcuffed, tortured … spat at, interrogated for long hours, denied proper medical care … subjected to foul and racist language, told to drink from the toilet bowls to quench their thirst”. One diabetic detainee was given syrup instead of mineral water to wash down her medicine. To inflict more discomfort, 14 detainees were herded in a lock-up meant for six

The government says it upholds the rule of law, but all its actions were contrary to democratic practices and principles. When the mass movement for democracy [Bersih 2.0] surged down the streets on July 9, the state responded fascist-like to curb the rights of the people to peaceful assembly. Democracy can mean many things to many people. But for the government of the day, “democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people”. It uses the instruments of power to stifle the cry for justice. It sees dissent as an attack on its privileged status. The Bersih 2.0 rally for democracy and the PSM’s own campaign to “create awareness among citizens of their democratic rights” were crushed because they represented a threat not to national security but to the survival of a political dinosaur.

The propaganda machine will be in full swing as it tries hard to come up with some plausible story to make some dirt stick to the freed detainees. It is even possible they may be hauled up again on some trumped-up charges. But it will be a useless exercise. Faith in the police story evaporated a long time ago. Public resentment against the government has solidified ever since the harsh crackdown on the pro-democracy marchers and the unjustified detention of the six PSM members. Spinning another tall tale to discredit these two momentous events would only inflame public opinion still further. Public perception cannot be changed by public relations stunts or influenced by deodorised newspeak. No one was wearing blinkers when the cold fingers of repression crept across the streets: all saw the uncaring side of the “people first” government when it waged war against democracy. To interpret this dual sordid affair in any other way is an affront to human decency and morality.

The arrest of the six PSM members was nothing more than a mere excuse for the government to shore up its sagging popularity. It created an enemy of the state for the purpose of driving fear into the populace so that they would all flock behind its shield. These six are the convenient baddies who must be made an example. By raising the spectre of imminent chaos, the intended result was to crush all opposition to the Putrajaya sheriff. But the operation codenamed “Smash E06” did not carry enough credibility to be taken seriously. It descended into farce.

In the end, it was the relentless pressure from the people – and not the magnanimity of the government – that broke the chain and set the six free. If there had been public apathy, the fate of the detainees would have taken a turn for the worse. They would not have emerged into sunshine but languished in prison at the pleasure of the brainwashing interrogators. But those in power had misread the public mood: people were not supporting the official line which is blatantly deceitful. All the pronouncements about a communist plot is plain baloney. All the shouting about an anti-monarchy uprising is pure claptrap. All the exposé about a Christian link is balderdash. The case the state tried so very hard to build against the six detainees and their harmless party stood on shifty ground. It eventually collapsed.