Several opposition leaders and civil society groups have unanimously condemned the arrest of five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan confirmed that they were arrested under Section 8(1) of the ISA, for allegedly carrying out activities that threaten national security.
The five were arrested at various locations in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Seremban. They are Hindraf legal adviser P Uthayakumar, lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau and organising secretary T Vasantha Kumar.
They were sent to the Kamunting detention camp in Taiping, Perak for a two-year detention, without this being preceded by the 60-day investigation period.
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP MP for Ipoh Timur
ISA, detention without trial, the infamous and notorious law whereby a person can be detained indefinitely without any grounds of offence, I think, is something which never should have been enabled.
I think if they are guilty of sedition or whatever it is, they should be charged in court and let their guilt be established after an open trial (where they are) allowed to defend themselves.
Karpal Singh, DAP national chairperson and Bukit Gelugor MP
I think the use of the ISA under these circumstances cannot be justified, or (even) under any circumstances. He should be given an opportunity to face trial in an open court if there is evidence. I think the home minister is going too far in having invoked the ISA.
Our men are inside, M Manoharan and V Ganabatirau, (are) members of DAP. We will definitely take the necessary action not only for both of them, even the others. In the public interest, action should be taken by DAP to make sure nobody is victimised by the provisions of ISA.
Ambiga Sreenevasan, president, Bar Council
I am very shocked and saddened by the announcement of ISA arrests. The Bar Council has always been against detention without trial. It is our view that they should be brought to trial.
In the meantime, we trust that they will be treated humanely, that their families will be kept informed as to their whereabouts and that they will receive proper care including medical treatment. The Bar Council calls for their immediate release.
S Arutchelvan, pro-tem secretary-general, Parti Sosialis Malaysia
We are not surprised by the arrest of Uthayakumar and the four others under the draconian ISA.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is no different from the previous prime ministers who resorted to ISA whenever they were unable to handle political storms.
It is time for Barisan Nasional and ISA to go. Only with the Barisan Nasional’s defeat can we also defeat ISA which has been ruling our lives for the last six decades.
Yap Swee Seng, executive director, Suara Rakyat Malaysia
We condemn the use of ISA against the five Hindraf leaders.
This is a gross human rights violation. It is a shame that Malaysia, which is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, has to resort to this draconian law to curb political criticism.
We call for the release of detainees or for them to be charged in court if the government feels that they have committed any crime. There are ample laws to take action against them if indeed they have committed any crime. To use ISA is certainly unjustifiable and indefensible.
These people will not be given the right to defend themselves against charges including the alleged terrorist link. They will be denied the right to trial and to legal counsel.
Shanon Shah Mohd Sidik, executive director, Amnesty International Malaysia
Amnesty International Malaysia is extremely regretful that after 50 years of independence and in the 20th anniversary year of Ops Lalang, the government has yet again resorted to using the ISA to suppress peaceful political, academic and social activities, and legitimate constructive criticism by NGOs and other social pressure groups.
Today's ISA arrests are clearly meant to limit the political space for important debates on issues of economic policy, corruption and other social challenges.
Amnesty International Malaysia is also extremely concerned at this juncture because the ISA is also an indisputable symbol of torture, as confirmed by the court judgment on former ISA detainee Abdul Malek Hussin.
We hereby call on the Executive to abolish the ISA and rectify the culture of impunity that exists in Malaysia. We also call on the Executive to implement the royal commission's recommendations and to implement the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct
Commission to investigate such abuses in the future.
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Writers Alliance for Media Independence (Wami)
CIJ and the Wami are deeply disturbed that the government has resorted to the draconian ISA to arrest five leaders of Hindraf.
The arrests indicate that the government of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has lost all respect for the mandate that the people gave him based on his promises for reform and greater accountability.
CIJ and Wami are concerned that such a blatant crackdown will lead to instability which the government says it is trying to prevent. The use of ISA spreads terror and unrest among citizens and seriously mars the standing of the country internationally.
We urge the government to release the five immediately or give them the recourse to a trial in court.
Norhayati Kaprawi, programme manager, Sisters in Islam (SIS)
SIS strongly urges the government to review its decision to use the ISA against five Hindraf leaders; (we) call for their immediate release.
SIS wishes to remind the government that the use of the ISA, which denies citizens the right to defend themselves in a court of law, is against the principles of democracy, good governance and Islam Hadhari.
The use of the ISA clearly contradicts and brings disgrace to the international image of Malaysia, especially since Malaysia sits on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Aliran Executive Committee
Aliran condemns the arrest of five Hindraf leaders under the obnoxious ISA. These arrests are certainly a huge step backwards for democracy.
When the Barisan Nasional detains its citizens under the draconian ISA, it concedes that it has lost its moral authority and has no justification to frame a valid charge and take them to court under the existing laws.
Hindraf leaders, like many other (detainees) before them, do not deserve the unjust ISA. Nobody should be detained without trial.
Detaining them under this undemocratic law will not resolve the underlying causes of the grievances and disillusionment that have been expressed by the Hindraf leaders and which have struck a chord among Indian Malaysians.
Malaysians will know that what the BN is trying to protect is its own security and interest and the survival of the (BN component party) MIC. It is the fear of the eroding loss of confidence that has driven the BN to take this desperate action.
Aliran calls on the government to immediately charge all of them in a court of law if they have flouted any law or release them unconditionally.