The opposition parties have predictably condemned the arrests as an
assault on the rule of law.
They also linked the arrests to the
purported erosion of support for Umno
and dissension within the party
following its supreme council proposal
that the top two posts should not be
DAP chairman Lim Kit Siang described the
arrests as a “dark shadow on Malaysian
democracy in the start of the new
Many Umno members, particularly at grassroots level, have called for action against opposition figures
who made unsubstantiated allegations.
There has also been pressure to ban
Harakah or to restrict the sale of the
PAS newsletter to party offices
Umno Youth exco member Nur Jazlan
Mohamed, for example, said publications must be responsible for what they
He said freedom of expression did not
mean freedom to slander, and if no
action was taken, there would be
publications which would attempt to push
the line and publish seditious
Jazlan's argument would naturally be rebutted by others who see the action against Harakah as a move to stifle alternative views.
It is interesting to note that the
authorities had not arrested
these opposition leaders under
the Internal Security Act.
Rightly or wrongly, the authorities are taking court action which the Opposition has always argued for
produce the evidence in open court and let the accused defend ourselves.
The message seems to be that the
Government would no longer tolerate any
challenge to legislation. Those who break the law must be prepared to face the consequences.
By charging them in open court, the
offenders would be able to defend
themselves. At the same time, the
authorities would have to produce
strong evidence if they want to win their cases.
The foreign media has continuously pointed out that the arrests began on
Wednesday, the day Datuk Seri Dr
Mahathir Mohamad left for a two-week overseas vacation.
That means Deputy Prime Minister and
Home Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi would be left to handle
Abdullah denied allegations of a
crackdown, saying a thorough police
investigation had been carried out
before the arrests were made.
He also denied that the action amounted
to suppression of free speech. “Anyone
can say what they want about anything
but there are also laws. It is necessary
for us to respect the law,'' he
Umno leaders have pointed out that the
pro-opposition foreign media have
refused to acknowlege that many opposition leaders who talked about
eroding support for Umno were rejected in the elections.
Defending the arrests, government leaders said sedition charges had been filed against politicians since the 70s.
There are no special privileges or
special laws for opposition leaders,
they said. Being oppositionists does not give them the right to say anything they want, including defaming others.
Whatever the argument, the bigger picture
would be how the younger voters perceive
There is also the question of whether it
is wise to arrest the opposition leaders
and unwittingly give them a new lease of
life after their defeat in the elections.
The court proceedings would provide
opposition parties with publicity, in
the absence of new issues.
For now, the Government would have to
convince Malaysians of the necessity to uphold
the law and that those who speak
of the rule of law should not
break the law themselves. Politicians will always claim they are on the right side.
Voters and politicians alike should
check the websites set up by political
parties and the various interest groups.
While mainstream newspapers have been
sued by Barisan Nasional politicians and businessmen for their reports, it is
amazing how publications and websites offering alternative views have been able to escape similar suits.
One reason could be because those
slandered have refused to take action,
preferring not to give these groups more
credibility or simply because these
groups may not be financially
These victimised people also do not wish
to be accused of stifling the freedom of expression.
It would not be an easy job as some
would see the arrests as a sledgehammer
approach, but nobody says running a government
To everyone's interests, it is best for
all Malaysians to refrain from making
unnecessary comments on the cases.
Supporters of these politicians should
not cast any doubt on the integrity of
the courts and its officers. Let the courts listen to the arguments of both sides and let justice run its full course.