Saturday, September 13, 2008

Malaysiakini Update: BRA council to call for EGM on ISA arrests

BRA council to call for EGM on ISA arrests

The Malaysian Bar, consisting of some 13,000 lawyers, plans to call an emergency extraordinary general meeting (EGM) next week to condemn the government's 

latest crackdown on three civilians through the use of the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA).

Its president Ambiga Sreenevasan told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today the EGM will take place next Saturday at 10am at the Wisma MCA in Jalam Ampang to discuss the violation of the rule of law.

isa bar council 120908 press conferenceThe move comes after the government used the ISA, which allows for indefinite detention without trial, to arrest a prominent blogger, an opposition leader and a journalist on the grounds that they threatened national security, peace and public order.

Ambiga condemned the arrests, saying that the use of ISA could not be justified.

"The use of the ISA, far from relieving any perceived tension, has instead created far more uneasiness and unhappiness amongst right thinking people in Malaysia," she read out from a two-page statement.

"The avowed grounds of arrest are all matters that come within the purview of existing laws in the country," she said, adding that the individuals should be charged in court and given the right to defend themselves if there is any offence committed.

Also present at the press conference held at the Bar's headquarters were four of its past presidents, Sulaiman Abdullah, Yeo Yang Poh, Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari and Hendon Mohamed.

The Bar's move to call for an EGM is seen as a strong message from the legal fraternity, which rarely holds such meetings unless there were matters of great public importance.

Uphold your pledge

Meanwhile, Ambiga announced the Bar has formed a 50-member legal team, headed by lawyer Rajpal Singh, to extend legal aid to the detainees. The high-level team will include the Bar chairperson and representative from each state.

isa bar council 120908 ambigaShe also reminded the government to uphold its pledge as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which includes upholding the ‘promotion and protection of all human rights'.

Under the pledge, it was stated ‘the promotion of a free media, including in cyberspace, as well as the encouragement of vibrant and active civil societies' should be part of society's fundamental rights.

Asked whether there was any possibility that Bar leaders would be the government's next target, Ambiga said any threat of the ISA would not stop them from speaking and doing the right thing for the Malaysian public.

Yesterday's crackdown began with controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, who has targeted government figures on his websiteMalaysia Today. Raja Petra was the first to be taken into custody at 1.10pm.

Tan Hoon Cheng, a journalist for the Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily, was later arrested at about 8.30pm after reporting a speech during the recently held Permatang Pauh by-election from Umno chieftain, Ahmad Ismail, who called the ethnic Chinese "squatters in the country" and undeserving of equal rights.

It was followed by the arrest of Selangor senior state executive councillor and Seputeh MP Teresa Kok at 11.18pm. Kok was picked up just outside her condominium after attending a mooncake festival in her constituency office.

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