Malaysian socialists released! 'Freeing us was definitely due to public pressure', says Jeyakumar

Dr Jeyakumar MP is greeted upon his release by PSM members and supporters. Photo by Alex Cheong.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal would like to thank all its readers who sent solidarity and protest messages, and participated in the pickets and vigils around the world, that helped win the release of the PSM's "EO6". Together with protests in Malaysia, solidarity actions were held in the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Australia and other parts of Asia.

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By K. Pragalath and Tarani Palani

July 29, 2011 -- Free Malaysia Today -- Malaysia's police today released the six Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) leaders who had been held without trial under the Emergency Ordinance since July 2. “The six have been released unconditionally. It is official”, said their legal counsel D. Yudistira after a meeting with CID deputy director Hadi Ho Abdullah.

They were released at 5.30 pm at the Sentul police district headquarters in Jinjang. Their 28-day initial detention was to end on July 31. The Home Ministry had the discretion to extend it for another 30 days and subsequently for two years.

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

The six are Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Deveraj, PSM deputy president M. Sarasvathy, central committee members Choo Chon Kai and M. Sukumaran, youth chief R. Saratbabu and Sungai Siput branch secretary A. Letchumanan.

They were among 30 PSM members who were arrested on June 26 and remanded on suspicion of "waging war" against the king. After the expiry of their seven-day remand on July 2, the six were detained without trial under the EO.

The release comes a day after Jeyakumar embarked on a hunger strike urging the authorities to either charge the six in court or release them immediately.

Thrilled by the news

Jeyakumar’s wife R. Mohana Rani said she was “thrilled” by the news. She is currently at the party branch in Sungai Siput where a hunger strike by 17 party members in support of the six is underway. “Well we are thrilled”, she told Free Malaysia Today as shouts and cheers could be heard in the background. “You hear that!,” she added, “I think that expresses how we feel”.

The moment is captured at central committee member Choo Chon Kai is released. Photo by Alex Cheong.

PSM secretary general S. Arutchelvan said he was in disbelief over the news. He was in the presence of the six released detainees at the Jinjang police station. “We were anxious that they may not be released on Monday but we are very happy”, he said. “Actually I can’t believe that they have been released,” he added.

The released six will be holding a press conference later today.

Following the release, DAP’s Lim Kit Siang said the government should now apologise for the detention and that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak should repeal the Emergency Ordinance.

He said the release was a victory for the people.

In another development, Inspector General of Police Ismail Omar said that the attorney general would now decide on the next course of action against the six.

In Sydney, a solidarity rally on July 29 called for the unconditional release of the PSM 6.

Jeyakumar: ‘Freeing us was a political move’

By Tashny Sukumaran, Kuala Lumpur

July 29, 2011 -- Free Malaysia Today -- Parti Sosialis Malaysia leader Dr Michael Jeyakumar Deveraj today called the release of the six PSM members as a “smart political move” by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in face of diminishing public support. “It’s definitely due to public pressure that we were released. He was losing popularity and realised that it too politically costly to keep holding us”, he told reporters just hours after the six PSM leaders were released from their Emergency Ordinance 28-day detention.

The prime minister however today said that release of the PSM members was a decision made by the police “based on their own observation”. “We accept the decision made by the police, it is up to the attorney-general to decide on the next course of action. As a sovereign country we uphold the rule of law,” said Najib to reporters.

However Jeyakumar, the federal member of parliament for Sungai Siput, noted that it was the pressure imposed by the people that had forced the government to release him and his party colleagues. He said that there were strong movements by the people in holding candlelight vigils, peace marches and hunger strikes nationwide to call for the release of the six.

“It’s not because the police were being sensible. They were out to get us to use us as an example.”

He also said that PSM’s next step would be to gauge the situation and perhaps file a case as they had been wrongly detained under the Emergency Ordinance.

“It’s a huge step forward for democracy, a victory for all of us.”

Apart from the Sungai Siput MP, the others who had been detained were PSM deputy president M. Sarasvathy, central committee members Choo Chon Kai and M. Sukumaran, youth chief R. Saratbabu and Sungai Siput branch secretary A. Letchumanan.

They were arrested in Kepala Batas on June 26 while distributing leaflets calling on the public to support Bersih 2.0′s demands for free and fair elections. The authorities later accused them of waging war against the King. They were then re-arrested on July 2 under the Emergency Ordinance which allowed the police to detain suspects for up to 60 days without trial.

It was later revealed that they were detained for allegedly being “movers” for the July 9 rally organised by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0).

During a triumphant victory celebration-cum-press conference this evening, the EO6 recounted their experiences in jail.

Sukumaran revealed how the interrogators from Special Branch had forced him to sing as they had seen him holding a microphone on the PSM website. “I told them I could only sing Tamil songs, and I sang one about being questioned and giving answers. When he asked me what it meant I told him that I was saying ‘my mother is sitting there, but I am sitting here so I am sad’.”

Sugu had also sung a popular Tamil movie song about bringing people together.

Jeyakumar also joked about his hunger strike, saying that he had fasted for two days before being released. “I was thinking, how long will I be continuing this? But I’ve already told the press about it, malu (embarrassed) if I break it.”

He also brushed off claims that the police had been professional. “It was not because the police came to their senses or they became honest and professional. They were not,” he said. “By the first week they should have known that we weren’t a threat – waging war against the king is more than T-shirts and a few people in a bus. If you look at records since 1998 when we became a party, there is zero indication we’ve used violence, religion, communist rhetoric. In 13 years, what have we done against the constitution?”

PSM secretary-general S. Arutchelvan revealed that PSM had engaged with home minister Hishammuddin Hussein to push for the six’s release.

“We were willing to accept any kind of release, even conditional”, said Arutchelvan, adding that he’d welcome a court case." He claimed that upon the release of the six, Hishammuddin had text messaged him saying “Over to you Arul.”

“We’ll work with Pakatan to topple Barisan Nasional next election,” he promised.

Sheila Jayakumar, Dr Jeyakumar’s sister, told Free Malaysia Today that she was relieved her brother and the other five members had been released.

Jeyakumar claimed that their detention had been in order to scare the Malaysian people into silence. “But it did not work. The people were brave and it was because of them that I am free today,” he said.