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Guardian: Mahathir's Foes Pay The Price of Dissent
By John Aglionby
24/6/2001 2:57 am Sun
[Walaupun tahanan ISA ditangkap dengan tuduhan ingin mencetus
kekacauan militan, mereka tidak pula disoal sedemikian di dalam tahanan.
Gobalakrishnan misalnya, diasak dengan soalan berbentuk seks sahaja.
Ezam disuruh menafikan sebarang ikatan dengan Anwar manakala Tian Chua
didesak mengaku sahaja dengan satu pengakuan yang telah disediakan.
Ini bukan namanya penyiasatan - tetapi lebih kepada pemaksaan. Yang
peliknya polis yang mendera seperti berkhidmat untuk Umno - bukannya negara.
Sampai sekarang tiada roket atau grenade ditemui di mana-mana kerana
itu semua kelentong belaka - jika tidak semua tahanan itu akan dihadapkan
ke mahkamah dengan segera.
Reformasi cuba dikaitkan dengan keganasan dan ISA menjadi alat untuk
mencari pengakuan agar perjuangan reformis dapat diaibkan. Tetapi
hakim Hishamuddin telah muncul dengan keputusan yang menggegarkan
sehingga teraib polis dan kerajaan pula. Sekarang Mahathir sedang
dihantui oleh kebangkitan isteri tahanan ISA yang amat tajam bisanya.
Mungkinkah dia kecundang di dalam aib di tangan kaum hawa sebagaimana
yang diramal oleh beberapa nujum di dalam negara?
The Guardian, UK
Mahathir's foes pay the price of dissent
Detained Malaysian opposition leaders speak from their prison cells
John Aglionby in Kuala Lumpur
Gobalakrishnan knew he was in trouble when most of the thugs who had
been interrogating him for the past couple of hours left the room and
handed over to a superior officer.
The officer, who like all the others never identified himself, pushed
the senior executive of Malaysians opposition party Keadilan (Justice)
off his chair and kicked the seat away.
"I fell to the ground and then was pulled up and put against the
wall," Mr Gobalakrishnan said. "The man put his fist against my
forehead and said: 'Gobi, I don't know what my men will do to you. I
can't control them. Just confess to any sexual affair. Once they come
in, they can do anything to you'."
This physical and psychological intimidation was typical of the
treatment Mr Gobalakrishnan and nine other Malaysian democracy
campaigners, mostly in their 30s and 40s, endured after being detained
in April under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The decades-old legislation allows an initial period of 60 day
solitary confinement without charges being brought and without access
to lawyers and relatives, and the option of a further two years
confinement, extended indefinitely if the government considers the
person a threat to national security.
The police released two of Mr Gobalakrishnan's fellow detainees,
Badaruddin Ismail and Raja Petra Kamaruddin, after 40-odd days in
solitary confinement at an unknown location.
A court then stunned the country by releasing Mr Gobalakrishnan and
Abdul Ghani Haron, another Keadilan party executive, after 51 days.
The other six - Tian Chua, Mohamad Ezam Mohd Nor, Saari Sungib, Badrul
Amin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam, all Keadilan leaders, and the social
activist Hishamuddin Rais - have had their detention extended
This is the first time the prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has used
the ISA extension against his political opponents since a period of
suppression in 1987, when more than 110 people were arrested, and more
than 40 of those had their detention periods extended.
In a world exclusive, the Guardian smuggled questions into the six in
detention and Mr Gobalakrishnan and Mr Badaruddin gave their first
newspaper interviews. Their accounts of their time in the hands of Dr
Mahathir's security personnel paint a horrifying picture of the
measures an ageing ruler is willing to take to snuff out the tiniest
shoots of grassroots democratic opposition.
The terror began on April 10, four days before Keadilan planned a huge
demonstration deliver a "memorandum of the people" to the national
human rights commission. Over a period of days special branch police
officers picked up the activists at their offices, at home, at
airports, at roadblocks and at restaurants.
At first they were accused of threatening to overthrow the government
"by militant means" with mortars, guns and rocket-launchers.
After being taken to the nearest police station, "we were brought
blindfolded and handcuffed to an unknown place", wrote Mr Tian, who
answered on behalf of the six detainees.
They were kept in cells less than three metres square with a concrete
bench, blanket, pillow, tap, toilet and 25-watt bulb set in the
ceiling, too high to reach.
Treated like hostages
"We were treated like hostages," Mr Tian wrote. "We were interrogated
for 60 days, very intensively for the first 4-5 weeks. Ezam and Saari
were kept awake for a couple of days without sleep during
interrogation. "The interrogation [was] designed to put heavy mental and
psychological pressure on us so that we [would] confess our 'crime'."
"The interrogation [was] designed to put heavy mental and psychological pressure on us so that we [would] confess our 'crime'."
The interrogators, who the detainees believe were a mixture of special
branch officers and officials of Dr Mahathir's party, the United
Malays National Organisation (UMNO), varied their tactics for each
They tried to get Mr Gobalakrishnan to confess to adultery and, he
believes, gave him food that he was unable to stomach: as an activist,
he had been thrown in jail a number of times before and this had never
been a problem. The result was that this former national athlete was
reduced to a panting and gibbering wreck with rotting gums and swollen
Mr Ezam was asked to renounce any link with Anwar Ibrahim, Mr
Mahathir's former deputy who was sacked in 1998, arrested, badly
beaten up, convicted of corruption and s###my in sham trials, and then
sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Anwar quickly became a symbol for the opposition movement, and his
wife, Wan Aziza Ismail, formed Keadilan. It fought the last election
in a coalition with three other opposition parties, without making
significant inroads into the government coalition's majority.
None of the detainees yielded under the pressure of interrogation,
despite not being able to see their families for the first 30-odd days
and having no contact with their lawyers.
"A statement of confession was prepared," Mr Tian wrote. "But we were
not allowed to read it before submitting to the minister. [So] we
While they were in solitary confinement reading material was
restricted to religious books, but Mr Badaruddin preferred to pass the
time singing old Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdink hits. "My
favourites were Green, Green Grass of Home, Please Release Me, and You
Mean Everything to Me," he said.
A police spokesman, Superintendent Benjamin Hasbie said the action of
the authorities was completely justified, even though it had produced
no evidence to substantiate its claims, and the charges brought were
covered by laws which require a proper trial. "If you let these little
things get out of control, they could cause instability and then
disrupt the nation's economy," he said.
Tengku Adnan, a senior UMNO official and close aide of Dr Mahathir,
explained why the ISA was still in force. "Do you want us to wait
until you see burning, until you see killing and then we take action?"
he said. "The ISA is a preventive law and our party and leadership
does not act at whim. We use it to protect and we do not like to see
the population of Malaysia in a situation where they start burning
houses, they start killing one another."
Everyone outside the government coalition believes the truth is very
different. "It shows Mahathir is desperate," Ms Wan Aziza said. "We're
making inroads. We're making an impact."
"Dr M feels threatened by the rising public criticism and opposition
towards his leadership," Mr Tian wrote. "[But] we believe that Dr M
could not stop the changing consciousness of Malaysian people,
especially the younger generation."
The next general election is not due for another three years, however.
After their detention was extended, the activists were moved to the
Kamunting detention camp, where there are 64 other detained under the
ISA, although none is a political prisoner.
Conditions there have improved somewhat: they are kept in pairs in
large dormitories, meet each other daily, can see their lawyers almost
at will, and are allowed weekly family visits, but can only write one
aerogramme letter a week.
Their appeal hearing is set for July 9. "No one is expecting victory," one of their lawyers said. "But we have seeds of hope."