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BP: Ezam is latest to fall foul of Mahathir
By BangkokPost

13/3/2001 12:20 am Tue

[Apakah Mahathir mendengar orang mengkritiknya atau menghukum semua pengkritik? Akta hasutan nampaknya begitu popular dijadikan alasan untuk menakut-nakutkan bangkangan dan mencengkam pemikiran. Tetapi reformasi tidak juga padam walaupun Anwar sudah dipenjarakan atau Ezam ditahan atau Marina Yusuf didenda wang.

Mahathir sebenarnya mendedahkan satu kelemahan dirinya betapa pipinya tidaklah setebal mana seperti yang diucapkan. Tekanan dan tindakkan menjadi-jadi terhadap rakyat itu akan semakin memusnahkan dirinya sendiri kerana rakyat semakin sedar dimana kebenaran itu berdiri. Pepatah melayu ada mengatakan: "Berani kerana benar dan takut kerana salah". Dengan menahan Ezam berdasarkan siaran akhbar yang berhelah, kezaliman telah terserlah dan Mahathir sudahpun terkalah. - Editor]

From The Bangkok Post
12th March 2001


Ezam is latest to fall foul of Mahathir

The arrest last Tuesday of Ezam Mohamad Noor, leader of the National Justice party's youth wing, on suspicion of sedition after a pro-government newspaper reported that he had made statements calling for the overthrow of the prime minister, has all the makings of a rerun of the tragi-farce that led to former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim's conviction for abuse of power and s###my, if on a much smaller scale.

If he is charged and convicted, Mr Ezam faces up to three years in prison. Mr Ezam, who styles himself in the same manner of speech and dress as Anwar, looked set to take up the opposition struggle where his hero left off-before he was sentenced to 15 years in jail in a trial many describe as a mockery of justice and an international embarrassment to Malaysia's legal system. The United States, in its latest human rights assessment, refers to Anwar as a "political prisoner".

It is shocking that the Malaysian authorities could arrest someone on evidence as flimsy as a newspaper report, but it is even worse that a suspect could be held incommunicado without bail for days on end while the police scurry about frantically trying to slap together a case with which to charge him. As Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the Democratic Action party, said on Wednesday, the police action was "unprofessional, lacking independence and most politically motivated in arresting first and investigating later".

In Dr Mahathir's Malaysia, apparently, the internationally accepted standard of investigation then arrest need not be followed as long as the victim is a member of the vocal opposition.

Prior to his arrest, Mr Ezam had helped kick off a nationwide campaign to protest high-profile state bailouts of Malay businessmen with links to the government. In all likelihood, Mr Ezam will be charged under the draconian Sedition Act, which it seems can be interpreted to mean the power to arrest anyone whom Dr Mahathir doesn't like. Three other opposition figures have been charged with sedition in the past 14 months. Two of them-one of Anwar's lawyers and the other the editor of Harakah, an opposition newspaper-are still before the courts while the third was convicted and fined.

The state of Malaysia's judicial system has sunk so low that the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee, which represents 4,000 lawyers, last week issued a memoranda of protest citing "abuse, incompetence and corruption" in the courts.

The tentacles of Dr Mahathir's government have extended into the murky terrain of censorship on more than a few occasions. In the latest, editions of news magazines Asiaweek and the Far Eastern Economic Review were held back for over a week by state censors. Clearly, Dr Mahathir is bent on controlling what his people read and the ideas that they are exposed to. Despite official denials, the delays are surely motivated by revenge after Asiaweek's January cover story, which Dr Mahathir complained made him look "tired and foolish".

And despite earlier promises to avoid putting a government stamp on the Internet, Malaysian authorities seized a computer last Wednesday owned by the operator of the website, accusing Raja Petra Kamarudin of publishing "seditious" articles.

Dr Mahathir has left his mark on his nation. In the course of nearly two decades of leadership, he has done much to contribute to the modernisation and economic progress of Malaysians. Perhaps his extreme dislike of criticism could be attributed to a character flaw, a paper-thin skin that gets more and more easily irritated as the 75-year-old advances in years. But he should be bigger than that. Instead of stifling dissent until it explodes into riots and bloodshed, he should allow the opposition to express their concerns, and make use of their contributions in an open dialogue to find creative solutions to Malaysia's problems.