Malaysia: Detention without trial for blogger RPK

Just as the MCMC unblocks “Malaysia Today”, Raja Petra Kamaruddin's controversial news portal, Malaysiakini reports that Raja Petra (or RPK) (pic below) has been arrested under the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA). RPK’s wife, Marina Lee Abdullah, was reported to have said that he was arrested at 1310 on 12th September 2008, with 10 police personnel in attendance at RPK’s home. According to Malaysiakini, RPK was arrested under s. 73(1) of the Act, allegedly for being a threat to security, peace and public order.

Raja Petra Kamaruddin

The ISA was first enacted in 1960, ostensibly to curb the threat communism. The preamble of the Act states:

An Act to provide for the internal security of Malaysia, preventive detention, the prevention of subversion, the suppression of organized violence against persons and property in specified areas of Malaysia, and for matters incidental thereto.

Apparently, detention without trial under the ISA operates in two stages:

  1. initial detention of up to 60 days upon the authority of the police
  2. then a two year renewable order by the authority of the Home Minister

Detainees are apparently held in solitary confinement and denied any contact with lawyers. The notorious Operasi Lalang of 1987 was a massive crackdown on opposition leaders, academicis, religious, social and environmental activists. The 1990s saw the detention of Al-Arqam leaders, the alleged ring leaders of the Reformasi and Hindraf Movements. Click here for a list of known detainees under the Malaysian Internal Security Act 1960.

Critics have said that the government’s continued use of the ISA defeats the Government's own claim to be subject to the rule of law, and will just give the perception that the detainees are held for their political activities.

RPK's detentions is reported to be at the first stage, i.e under s. 73(1) of the ISA, which permits detention of an individual for up to 60 days. RPK has also been detained under the ISA in 2001 for his alleged involvement in the Reformasi (reformation) movement. He was held for 53 days at the Kamunting Detention Centre in Taiping, Perak. Opposition parties strongly condemn this move by the government.

Material on the ISA:

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