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ATimes: 'Warrior Princesses' On The Warpath
By Anil Netto
10/6/2001 7:39 am Sun
[Tuhan kerap menganugerahkan sesuatu yang istimewa buat kaum
hawa di dunia ini secara 'tunai' atas kegigihan mereka. Air zam-zam yang mengalir
tidak putus-putus di Mekah itu contohnya adalah salah satu daripadanya untuk
menghargai peranan Siti Hajar sebagai ibu dan isteri yang
teramat setia lagi kasih kepada keluarganya.
Bagaimana pula dengan Malaysia? Kebangkitan kaum hawa di negara ini telah
dihadiahkan dengan keputusan bersejarah oleh Hakim Hishamuddin yang
telah mengaibkan semua polis bertopeng yang selama ini begitu rakus
bermaharaja gila mengugut dan menangkap sesiapa sahaja walaupun bukti
tidak ada. Sepatutnya semua rakyat berugama Islam dan pemimpin PAS
khususnya menganjurkan majlis solat besar-besaran mensyukuri satu
pertolongan ajaib dari langit ini yang telah muncul tiba-tiba. Berkat
siapakah ini semua jika tidak kaum ibu dan hawa? Kaum ibu adalah penting
jika tidak syurga itu tidak akan dikatakan terletak dibawah telapak kaki mereka.
'Warrior princesses' on the warpath
By Anil Netto
PENANG - Dozens of public interest and rights groups are expected to
hold a protest gathering against a harsh security law outside the
official residence of Home Affairs Minister and Deputy Premier
Abdullah Badawi on Saturday. The gathering marks the climax of two
months of grueling campaigning against the Internal Security Act (ISA)
since 10 reformasi activists were detained without trial under the law
at various times between April 10 and 26.
Abdullah has already warned the gathering is illegal and the matter
has been referred to the police, setting the stage for yet another
standoff between protestors and police in the capital Kuala Lumpur.
Protests from public interest groups have intensified over the past
two weeks as another public uproar erupted over the takeover of two
relatively independent newspapers by the Malaysian Chinese Association
(MCA), the second largest party in the ruling coalition. The MCA,
which already controls the top-selling English daily The Star, last
month announced it was taking over Nanyang Press, the publisher of
Chinese-language dailies, Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press. Nanyang
has a circulation of 177,000 while China Press sells 204,000 copies.
Scores of Chinese associations and even top MCA leaders have strongly
opposed the deal. They are arguing that the Chinese community, which
makes up 25 percent of the country's population of 23 million, would
be better served by independent media that could present a range of
views, including dissenting views. Some 90 writers and contributors
have announced that they are boycotting the two newspapers.
Although reformasi street demonstrations were curbed following the
detentions of the 10 activists (four have since been released), the
smaller but spirited anti-ISA and anti-Nanyang Press takeover protests
show no signs of letting up. The protests, intense and emotional, have
at times overlapped as in the case in Penang on June 1, when the
anti-ISA lobby and the media protestors converged at the Penang
Chinese Town Hall before a crowd of 500.
Activists pinned anti-ISA badges on the shirts of those attending the
forum while others tied yellow ribbons - the protest symbol of the
anti-Nanyang takeover - around their wrists. Inside the forum,
speakers railed against the assault on media freedom while the wives
and relatives of detainees slammed the detentions of their loved ones
as secret police watched from the back of the hall.
What has made the anti-ISA protests more interesting is that women
have been at the forefront of the Abolish ISA Movement, a coalition of
80 NGOs and rights groups. The wives, mothers and daughters of the
detainees, who have been dubbed "warrior princesses" in reformasi
circles, have crisscrossed the country on a nationwide roadshow
speaking to hushed crowds about how the reformasi activists were
hauled away by police and how their families were kept in the dark
about their fate for long periods.
Women's groups have organized hunger strikes to protest against the
detentions and as riot police looked on, hundreds of women and
children held a public demonstration on June 4 at the foot of the
Petronas Twin Towers, the world's tallest buildings, the symbol of
pride of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's administration. Thanks to
their efforts, the ISA stands largely discredited in the eyes of large
sections of the public. The High Court, in a landmark ruling on May
30, freed two of the 10 reformasi activists and stunned observers when
it declared that it was perhaps time for Parliament to review the law.
The sentiment against the ISA has left government officials at pains
to defend the law. They argue that the IAS, drafted at a time when
Malaysia was facing a communist insurgency, is still needed to defend
the nation from any threats to national security. The 10 reformasi
activists, they allege, were out to "topple" the government through
street demonstrations and the movement was using increasingly militant
means towards that goal. But after almost 60 days of interrogation,
little evidence of the activists' guilt, if any, has been publicly
Four of the 10 detainees have been transferred to the Kamunting
Detention Camp in Perak state, north of Kuala Lumpur, to serve out
two-year detention orders (although they may be released earlier).
Apart from the two freed by the High Court, two others have been
voluntarily released by police while the remaining two are still in
Many eyes will be on Badawi's residence on Saturday to gauge the
extent of the anti-ISA protests and to see how police handle the
situation. And even as anti-ISA protestors converge at Badawi's
residence, one man is expected to walk out of jail a free man on
Saturday. Former inspector-general of police Rahim Noor, who assaulted
ousted deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim during his jail-house
interrogation, is due to be released from Kajang Prison after a
customary one-third remission of his two-month prison term for good
behavior. An ailing Anwar, himself a two-time victim of the ISA,
meanwhile languishes in prison serving jail terms totalling 15 years.