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Archive for September, 2008

PRESS STATEMENT

Pertubuhan Jamaah Islah Malaysia

14 September 2008

JIM CONDEMNS THE DETENTION OF POLITICIAN, JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER UNDER THE INTERNAL SECURITY ACT (ISA)

Pertubuhan Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM) condemns the detention without trial of Supeteh MP and also Selangor Exco Member Teresa Kok, Sin Chew Daily journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

JIM wishes to stress that ISA is against the principle of justice as it denies the accused of their constitutional rights to defend themselves. Without representation, they can be unjustly and indefinitely detained without any access to the judiciary. The “innocence until proven guilty” principle has long been embodied in the Islamic traditions, where jurists opined that detention should not be prescribed on the basis of suspicion alone.

Preventive detention is built on the flawed premise that the perceived sense of urgency in maintaining the security of the country justifies the need to bypass the normal investigative procedures and technicalities in finding the grounds needed to convict anyone of being prejudicial to the security of the country.

In fact, the overriding principle is that the suspected individual is guaranteed personal freedom and the right of free movement: He it is Who hath made the earth subservient unto you, so Walk in the paths thereof and eat of His providence (Quran 67:15). Thus, a person cannot be detained or deprived from his freedom of movement without a provable reason.

JIM questions the absurdity of the reasoning that the released journalist Tan Hoon Cheng had to be previously detained under ISA due to her personal safety concerns. Is not the ISA provision supposedly meant for those who are considered a threat to national security? Should Hoon Cheng thank the government or should she take the government to court for taking away her citizenry rights for reason that is illogical?

Accusation without proof runs contrary with God’s commandment for the accused to be considered innocent until proven guilty without any slightest reasonable doubt. The government should pay heed to the Prophetic saying that those whose verdicts have been made out of untruthful sources will enter the Fire, and start prioritizing the universal principles of Islamic justice above shallow racial sentiments in protecting the rights of all Malaysians.

The ISA itself is responsible for inciting instability in this country, as haste punishment inflicted on any group of people based on unverified intelligence from those whose integrity is questionable will lead the nation into subsequent series of judicial injustice and will force the prosecutors to regret their actions only after the damage has been done unto all affected parties (Quran 49:6).

JIM recommends any parties affected by public expressions that are deemed slanderous to Islam to be proactive in providing astute explanations towards the issues that are being debated. Islam stands firm on clear-cut evidences found in the Quran and the Prophetic Traditions, and it demands its followers to substantiate their standpoints in a very wise and respectful manner.

JIM views the Sin Chew Daily journalist’s detention as if she is responsible for the uproar over Ahmad Ismail’s racist statements as unreasonable because it was Ahmad Ismail and his followers themselves who consciously aggravated the controversy by lashing physical and verbal provacations without any emotional restraints in front of the broadcasters of the mainstream media.

The detention of Seputeh MP Teresa Kok is an injustice considering the absurdity of Selangor Ex-Menteri Besar’s accusations which she profusely denied. Instead, the mosque in Damansara which was purportedly forced to tone down their call for prayers already gave their explanation that their amplifier faced technical difficulties.

The non-muslim residents around the mosque in Puchong were reported to plea for the mosque to reduce the speakers volume during religious speeches and Quranic recitations, not the call for prayers.

JIM stands clear that any excuse given by the government in this latest detention episode, whether it is a threat to national security, peace or order, should be able to be handled through other current provisions of law.

The high-handed action in scare-mongering and arresting bloggers, journalists and other citizens critical of the policies of the present administration without any concrete reasoning will only invite doubts among the people towards the motive and sincerity of the government to reform in view of the current post-GE-12 political landscape.

JIM highly regrets the actions of the governing politicians who have the guts to stir up racial and religious prejudices in covering up their various leadership flaws. Instead, it is better for the government to work hard to solve current national problems without gambling with the peaceful atmosphere all Malaysians are currently enjoying. The Muslim leaders must stop racial politics, untruthful vilifications and deceitful slanderings at once, and return back to the Islamic way of life.

JIM urges the government either to free Teresa Kok, Raja Petra and other ISA detainees immediately or to charge them in court. The rights of others who have been detained as long as 7 years also need to be taken care of.

As an active Abolish ISA Movement (GMI) coalition member, JIM pleas every concerned member of the public to join our forefront efforts in condemning ISA and its applications through various GMI activities. Boundaries of race, culture and religion do not exist in our collective demand for truth and justice.

Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh

Deputy President

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The mainstream media has taken to the issue of a journalist Tan Hoon Cheng being arrested under ISA like a duck to water: the write ups were meticulous as a blog; the personal angle was most sympathetic; the support for her was reported in full. Yet there is an obvious blind spot: what does Tan and others think about ISA and its use/abuses?

There is an obvious damage control here: in at least 2 reports Bernama quoted Tan and her parents to express thank to the police and the people who are responsible for her arrest under ISA. Could she or the parents be thankful to the police for -quoting Tan’s parent, taking away Tan like in a `kidnapping’?

The principle issue of detention without trial -which is universally condemned as a violation of human rights, could be given some reference in the reports by the mainstream media. By not doing so the mainstream media is either sanitising the issue or sidestepping the principle issue here.

Such treatments are not uncommon among the mainstream media: policy debates which are overdue are not touched by their reports. Eg anti-poverty policy which reuire shifting resources from other policy items, are almost always avoided in favour of some poor folks being given a most personal write up. Zooming in the personal details seems to be a sure tactics to avoid the bigger picture.

The cruelty of ISA is not invisible even in Tan’s case: she was taken away without any preparation. As a career women she does have many commitment to attend to. If she need to answer to some legal issues why not just summon her to the police station at a convenient time. Surely she would not refuse to see the police to offer her help in any investigations.

Then she was taken away to an unknown place, without any timetable told to her. She was like being imprisoned -with her hand phone being switched off to cut her off from the rest of the world. What has she done to deserve this? She has not even been charged or convicted-yet she has started to experience the sentence! That is the cruelty of `detention without trial’!

After she was released she spoke for about 30 min to the press before she went off to a friend’s house to `avoid the press’. Why do she need to do that -she being a prefessional journalist herself? Given her training certainly she has no problem to handle her collegues’ quries! Was she warned not to touch on eg ISA? She was reported to say that the police gave her `good and professional’ treatment. Well, how `good’ is taking a person away without any idea where a person could be taken? How `good’ can the outing be when the journey may never return -given that many ISA detainees had been detained over 20 years?

The issue can be persued further-but I suppose readers can get the drift here up to this point.

To show that there are BN politicians who notice the gap in the ISA arrest rationalisation this is a call by Ahmad Shabbery Cheek:

September 14, 2008 00:36 AM

Police Should Give Explanation On Reporter’s Arrest, Says Shabery

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By: Ramjit

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 (Bernama) — The police should give an explanation on the rationale behind the detention of Sin Chew Daily journalist, Tan Hoon Cheng, who was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA), said Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

He said it would be better if the police explaned the detention of Tan, instead of politicians giving their reasons.

He told this to reporters after attending a lantern carnival here Saturday night.

Also present was his deputy, Datuk Tan Lian Hoe.

Shabery said this in response to the statement made by Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar Saturday that Tan’s detention was part of the police’s swift action to ensure her safety after she received threatening calls.

Syed Hamid said police intelligence found the journalist’s life to be under threat after she reported about Bukit Bendera Umno chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail’s alleged racist remarks made during campaigning for the Permatang Pauh by-election last month.

However, Tan was released from the Penang police headquarters at about 2.30pm Saturday.

Shabery, who expressed gratefulness over the release of Tan, said the action clearly reflected that ISA detention was not a long-term punishment and was only to deter people from making statements that could jeopardise national security.

— BERNAMA

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To report or not?

Next time a reporter hear some racial remarks by a politician should he/she report it in the interests of truthfulness and professionalism? Should the editor let the report see the light of the day in the interests of serving the readers with the truth, nothing but the truth? While most journalists body condemn the arrest of Sin Chew Journalist Tan Hoon Cheng the nation’s official news agency boss, reportedly said,

“Journalists themselves are also anxious to know so that they won’t make similar mistakes,” he said.

What mistake? Did he think that Tan has erred to choose to report what she heard? If this is this guy’s official view(reported by Star-see below!) you know what to expect from this tax-payers supported `news agency’.

Saturday September 13, 2008 MYT 3:51:25 PM

NUJ saddened, disappointed by arrest (updated)

PETALING JAYA(Star): The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and National Press Club expressed sadness at Sin Chew Daily News journalist Tan Hoon Cheng’s arrest under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

NUJ president Norila Mohd Daud when contacted Saturday said the union felt sad and disappointed over the arrest.

“Only a few weeks ago, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi mentioned that the media should write the truth and there should be no fear in writing the truth. Look what has happened now,” she told The Star.

“It is obvious that the Government is not keeping to its word,” she added.

“For Tan to be charged under the ISA is too much. It is very unbecoming. She was just writing what she heard at the campaign and was merely doing her job as a reporter. She has no political interest,” Norila pointed out.

Should her report be deemed seditious, Norila said the authorities could have charged her under the Sedition Act but not the ISA.

“It is a very serious charge. And the editors and the company should also be held responsible if anything, not just the messenger,” she said, adding that the source of the issue should also be arrested.

“We do not see a point as to why she is being detained under the ISA. She does not pose a threat to national security. This is a mere intimidation for journalists and the media industry. It is like a threat to instil fear among journalists to not write the truth,” she maintained.

Norila also said the union was in the process of submitting protest petition letters to Malaysian ambassadors abroad.

“We will ensure these ambassadors receive the petition letters. We are going to flash this news to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and via our international links,” she said.

“We believe that it is not right to use ISA on a journalist who was merely fulfilling her professional duty,” president Mokhtar Hussain told The Star on Saturday.

Calling the detention improper, he added that arresting reporters would not augur well for the journalism industry in Malaysia.

“Journalists will then be working in an environment of fear when reporting the truth,” Mokhtar said, adding that the club hoped for Tan’s release as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Press Institute said Tan’s arrest is a test case for journalists all over the country to know how to approach similar situations.

Chairman Datuk Azman Ujang said it was a rare case of a reporter being arrested under the ISA for repoting an event.

“We are anxious to know how the ministry will react considering that the newspaper had explained that it was straight forward reporting.

“Journalists themselves are also anxious to know so that they won’t make similar mistakes,” he said.

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Teresa Kok -another USM mass Com grad arrested for false accusation to tune down Azan calls by a mosque

Teresa Kok -another USM mass Com grad arrested for false accusation to tune down Azan calls by a mosque

Election is a civil means to allow power contests to take place in a democratic society. Yet the existence of laws which restrict freedom of speech, assembly etc is making the contest less than `civil’. The latest spades of ISA arrests shows that such unfair laws will unevitably be abused by those holding the power for personal power preservation purpose. Fairness in competition for the people’s `hearts and minds’ become a first casulty. The consequence: those who are less than capable and popular will continue to hold power and run rough shot over the population. They become a drag to the society. By popular will they should be got rid of by the people in the most expeditious way.

At the time of reporting the latest 3 ISA detainees are: Raja Petra, a popular anti-Badawi blogger; Tan Hoon Cheng, SIn Chew’s senior reporter who first reveal Ahmad Ismail’s racial remarks at Permatang Pauh by-election campaign; and Teresa Kok, MP for Seputih, who was accused falsely of pressuring a mosque to turn down the volume of its Azan broadcast. Statement by Syed Hamid Albar that Tan may be released earlier today may be unreliable as she has been sent to Bukit Aman since morning, after being allowed to meet her parents briefly.

Are the people at the mercy of these BN politicians? The people who want free and fair conduct of the government will need to voice out clearly that this is NOT what they allow for their (people’s) servants.

September 13, 2008 14:09 PM

Sin Chew Journalist Sent To Bukit Aman

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By: Ramjit

–>KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 (Bernama) — Sin Chew Daily journalist Tan Hoon Cheng who was picked up by police at her house in Bukit Mertajam under the Internal Security Act (ISA) last night, has been sent to Bukit Aman Police Headquarters.

Penang Chief Police Officer Datuk Ayub Yaakob told Bernama: “She was brought to Bukit Aman after being allowed to meet her parents at Penang Contingent Police Headquarters at 8.30am.”

Tan, 33, was seen getting into a black Kia Sorenta vehicle which was escorted by a Proton Waja car after meeting her parents, Tan Booi Siam and Khor Ah Heok, at the state police headquarters in Jalan Penang.

Her father in his 70s and mother, 60s, who came to the police headquarters with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and counsel Chia Loong Thye before 8am, brought clothes and food for Tan.

Khor said she and her husband were happy because they were allowed to meet their daughter and spent 15 minutes with her.

September 13, 2008 00:41 AM

Raja Petra, Teresa Kok, Sin Chew Reporter Arrested Under ISA

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By: Ramjit

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 (Bernama) — Blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, Seputeh member of parliament Teresa Kok and a Sin Chiew Daily News reporter were arrested Friday under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Raja Petra was picked up from his house in Sungai Buloh at 1.10pm, Kok in front of her condominium here at 11.20pm while the Sin Chew Daily News reporter, Tan Hoon Cheng, was picked up from her house in Bukit Mertajam in Penang at 8.30pm.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar confirmed the arrest three.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar earlier Friday said that Raja Petra was detained after it was ascertained that he could disrupt and threaten security and public order.

Syed Hamid said when contacted that the blogger’s detention came in the wake of various statements published by Raja Petra in his blog “Malaysia Today”, the latest being a commentary which allegedly ridiculed Islam and Prophet Muhammad.

Raja Petra reportedly incited Muslims with a commentary on the article “I promise to be a good, non-hypocritical Muslim” which contained sentences that ridiculed Muslims besides allowing a commentary which ridiculed Islam and Prophet Muhammad with reference to the article “Not all Arabs are descendants of the Prophet” published in the “Malaysia Today” blog.

Section 73(1) of the ISA permits the detention of an individual for up to 60 days.

In Penang, news of Tan’s arrest prompted several political party leaders, reporters and photographers to gather outside the Seberang Perai Tengah district police headquarters where the reporter was taken to.

Tan’s family members were also there but declined to be interviewed.

Tan is the reporter who wrote the news claiming that Bukit Bendera Umno division chief, Datuk Ahmad Ismail, had said in a ceramah during the Permatang Pauh by-election that the Chinese were mere “immigrants” in the country.

At 11.10pm, Tan was seen coming out of the Seberang Perai Tengah IPD accompanied by two policemen and entering a Proton Waja car, believed to be heading to the state police headquarters on the island.

The car was also escorted by two dark-tinted Proton Wira cars, and on passing by the group of waiting reporters, Tan managed to wave at them.

Bukit Mertajam MP Chong Eng, who was earlier allowed by police to enter the IPD to see the detained reporter but was not allowed to speak to her, told reporters that Tan who was not handcuffed, appeared calm but shed some tears.

Some 100 leaders and supporters of political parties, including from MCA, Gerakan and DAP gathered outside the police headquarters and lighted up candles as a sign of protest over the reporter’s arrest.

Meanwhile, Raja Petra’s wife, Marina Lee Abdullah, said 10 policemen came to the house and detained her husband at 1.10 pm and took him away at 1.50 pm.

Marina said the police also took several tapes and a computer from her husband’s room.

Raja Petra was detained under the ISA in April 2001 for his involvement in the reformation movement and was held for 53 days at the Kamunting Detention Centre in Taiping, Perak.

— BERNAMA

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LGE & Mujahid came to show support to ISA detainee Tan Hoon Cheng

LGE & Mujahid came to show support to ISA detainee Tan Hoon Cheng

It is reliably learned the Sin Chew reporter who reported about Ahmad Ismail’s racial remark during the Permatang Pauh by-election has just been arrested under ISA and remanded at Penang’s police HQ at Penang Rd. A group of supporters are congregating there to lend support to her-including dr Toh -formerly Gerakan Exco.

It is not sure if more arrest will follow this action which involved the government giving show-cause letter to 3 local dailies -Nanyang, Sin Chew & the Sun. This seems to show that the punishment against Ahmad Ismail is only a temprory appeasement which do not neccesarily means that the Badawi government will truly act against racial agitators. Yesterday ex-Selangor MB concocted an allegation that Teresa Kok, Seputih MP, asked a mosque to lower azan’s volume-an action which seems to be calculated to raise ethnic and religious tention.

Readers should help spread the news that people should remain calm and not be drawn in by any racial or religious provocations-which could allow the power that be to nullify the democratic institutions.

Go here for pictures and updates.

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Ahmad starting to show his hate message-why should political power be divided according to races and not according to merit and capablity?

Ahmad starting to show his hate message-why should political power be divided according to races and not according to merit and capablity?

Ahmad Ismail’s alleged racial remark at the Permatang Pauh by-election seems to be admitted in default by Ahmad himself when he reportedly said that Chinese should not be like Jews in US who want economic as well as political power. This is similar, or worse than the report by Sin Chew that `Chinese are squatters and cannot expect to enjoy equal power’. This latest remark has been reported by a number of media -thus Ahmad do have a case to answer to the UMNO president tomorrow -failing which he will face party disciplinary action. While he keep protesting that he is not a racist he cannot stop offering his racial thinking to the public: eg he prefered MCA-a purely ethnic based party like UMNO to become the head of BN Penang, and to become the representative of Chinese community. Unfortunate for him the rest of the world may have left him behind in opting for non-racial world.

The issue here is: how should the society deal with such bigotted view from politicians? Legal actions may not be appropriate as the same method used against racist will also be similarly extended to other social critics, thus restricting freedom of speech. But there is no restriction for socially aware groups to speak out against racism and other prejudicial thinking which only serve to irrationally divide the society. If the criticisms against racists are left to the racial parties then the racists are successful to drive a wedge of no-confidence between the races. It is at such time that non or multiracial groups stand up to speak against racial or sectarian groups/individuals-especially racial politicians who think racism win them votes. Denying votes/support to them thus become the best response to these prejudiced politicians. The divide now is not between the races -but between the racists and the non-racists!

If Ahmad want to claim to be rational he need to revise his policy to disallow questions from the journalists. This he has done it twice so far. Is there something that he cannot answer from the press? The unwillingness to face the press expose his claims of being reasonable and fairminded.

Ong BK

Ahmad Ismail blames Koh for tensions
By Adib Zulkapli

GEORGE TOWN, Sept 8( http://www.malaysianinsider.com ) — It was supposed to be a press conference for the Bukit Bendera Umno chief, Datuk Ahmad Ismail to diffuse the situation.

What happened instead after the press conference was his supporters tore up in anger a picture of former Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon and engaged in a shouting match with reporters.

This happened after Ahmad, while defending his position, urged the Barisan Nasional leadership to expel Gerakan from the coalition.

His supporters also engaged in a shouting match with a reporter from an English language daily that reached its lowest point with death threats hurled at her.

Ahmad had been directed by Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to hold a press conference today to try to diffuse the tensions sparked by his controversial remarks during the recent Permatang Pauh by-election campaign in which he referred to the Chinese in Malaysia as “squatters”.

He read from a prepared statement, in which he defended his decision not to apologise for his remarks, and repeated his stand that he had been quoted out of context.

Ahmad put the blame for mounting racial tensions squarely on the shoulders of Koh, whom he accused of being a good actor who was instigating the Chinese.

He also attacked the reporter from a Chinese language daily for misreporting his speech.

“I was only mentioning the facts of what was the situation before Merdeka. Nobody can change history,” he said.

He said Gerakan leaders were trying to make him a scapegoat, and that Koh was creating a “sandiwara,” which caused tensions to rise.

“I have worked with him for the past 18 years. I know him very well. He is a good actor,” he said.

He said the patience of Malays had its limits.

“I want to appeal to the Chinese not to become like the Jewish in America. It is not enough they control the economy, now they want political control.”

Ahmad only answered one question from the press, before he ended the press conference.

Ahmad’s supporters, who were also present during his press conference last Friday, even took down the picture of former Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, from the wall of the conference room.

“One reporter insisted that I answer one more question from her, she was being a little bit rude, so some people got upset, you know how we Malays sometimes get angry with this kind of behaviour,” said Ahmad when contacted.

“I was already in the office when they were arguing,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

He added that he came out of the office when he heard the commotion to calm down his supporters.

Ahmad, however, said that the supporters ended up tearing the picture of Koh, as the frame was firmly nailed to the wall.

“Nothing serious happened,” said Ahmad who reiterated that he was subjected to unfair trial by the media.

However, according to eye witnesses present at the press conference, some of Ahmad’s supporters shouted, “sudah lah (enough)” and “bunuh dia (kill her),” at one reporter from an English daily who insisted on asking one more question.

“Of course she got angry as she was just doing her job, and the supporters were trying to intimidate her,” said a reporter who was present at the press conference.

The reporter who was verbally abused by the Umno supporters said she would check with her employer on the next course of action.

On Friday, Penang opposition leader and state Umno secretary Datuk Azhar Ibrahim said that one reporter from a Chinese daily should be blamed for twisting Ahmad’s words.

“What was written may lead to a racial riot. If such a thing happens, he is the first person that should be shot,” said Azhar.

On Saturday, during the state Umno liaison committee meeting chaired by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Ahmad presented his case and explained that his remark was made in a historical context.

Abdullah later said that Ahmad is not a racist although he did not say whether he accepted Ahmad’s explanation.

Penang MCA severs ties with Ahmad Ismail
Himanshu Bhatt and Bernard Cheah(Sun)

GEORGE TOWN (Sept 8, 2008): Bukit Bendera Umno chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail went on another round of offensive today against Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon and the reporter who he claimed misinterpreted what he said about the Chinese at the Permatang Pauh by-election.

His press conference, which descended into shouts and abuses against reporters by Ahmad’s supporters, coincided with another by Penang MCA which declared that they would not participate in any activities organised by Ahmad or the Umno divisions which supported his stand until the issue has been resolved properly.

Ahmad shifted the blame on Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon for blowing up the matter, and called on Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties to expel Gerakan from the coalition.

Ironically, Ahmad said MCA should take over the chairman’s post of Penang BN now held by Koh.

Inflamed by the rhetoric, some supporters took down a photo of Koh hanging on the wall and ripped it. They later shouted abuses at reporters.

Penang MCA chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai meanwhile announced they were severing ties with Ahmad and other state Umno divisions that supported him (all 13 Penang Umno divisions have exhibited support for Ahmad).

He said the Chinese community felt “angry, offended and disappointed” by Ahmad’s “arrogance” in not withdrawing his statement.

Liow also expressed disappointment with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi Ahmad for changing his stand after earlier asking Ahmad to apologise.

“Such remarks have caused Chinese voters to lose their confidence in BN, and MCA becomes the victim,” he said.

Ahmad’s press conference ended rancorously when Umno supporters in the room hurled angry shouts at journalists. This happened when Ahmad refused to entertain more questions after he had unleashed a tirade against Koh.

He also said the state Umno is appointing a lawyer to help him sue the Sin Chew reporter.

“Enough – don’t blame me of being a racist anymore because I am not racist. Koh Tsu Koon should ask forgiveness from the Chinese and also the Malays as well as followers of Islam for causing this situation to be tense till this level,” he said.

He said if he was racist, he would not have helped Chinese candidates in the BN win state assembly and parliamentary seats in the Bukit Bendera
constituency since 1990.

He rubbished Koh’s claim that their relationship had been strained by Koh’s refusal to extend his tenure as councillor of the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP). “This is another tactic of him to character assassinate me (sic).”

He said the respective BN parties were responsible for selecting their councillors, and Koh only had jurisdiction over Gerakan councillors.

“I do not deny that I said the Chinese are squatting (“menumpang“) in our country, but only that it was not in the context mentioned by the reporter.”
He reiterated that he had called Chinese “immigrants” in the context of the pre-independence period.

“History cannot be changed just to satisfy and make certain quarters happy. We have to accept history.”

On assertions by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders that the alleged racial statements were made to divert public’s attention from issues like corruption by the BN,
Ahmad said he got calls of support from many grassroots members from PR.

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Did Ahmad Ismail made the racial remark which was reported by Sin Chew paper? This central fact seems to be lost in the responses from various parties to the controversy. As a post-election monitoring of the Permatang Pauh by-election MAFREL call upon all parties to give factual/truth based settlement its due central place. Let’s examine how some responses deviate/undermine the truth based approach:

DPM Mohd Najib reportedly apologised over the remark `if the remark hurt the feeling of the Chinese community’. While this is taken as equivalent to an apology about the content of the racial remark(if verified) it is patently not identical. By the logic of the `apology’ if the remark did not receive complaints from the Chinese community then it is OK, no matter what the content may be. The PM follow up on this approach to ask Ahmad Ismail to apologise.

Then Ahmad Ismail reportedly refused to apologise on the ground that he never made the offending remark. To be exact he did admit that he made the `Chinese are immigrants’ remark -but he claimed that he meant to say it `in the historical context’ only. So he charged that the journalist quoted him out of context. Now did he actually made the historical context clear in his speech at Permatang Pauh-or is it an afterthought? Real witnesses or recording of the speech probably are the only ways to verify this. There are the 3 journalists and about 200 audience present at the ceramah-why are their help not tapped to obtain the truth? By jumping over this step it seems that there is an attempt to do damage control-which is a public relation exercise rather than a truth seeking approach.

Rather than seeking the truth the Opposition Leader of Penang State Assembly from UMNO Azhar Ibrahim (Penaga), along 13 UMNO division leaders, supported Ahamd Ismail’s stand. He claimed the misreporting could cause a racial riot and thus the reporter should be shot. Thus far there is no racial riot in the week after the report surfaced-though political parties -chiefly from BN, had criticised Ahmad/UMNO based on the report. There is no violent reaction due to a simple reason: everyone take the statement, repugnant as it appeared to them, as part of a civil debate. Just as past reprimand against sexist remarks by other politicians. Azhar’s exaggeration of the effect of the report seems to aim at justifying his equally exaggerated punishment for the alleged wrongdoer ie death by shooting. Such prosecutor-jury-executioner combination role only exemplify the conduct of dictators or feudal kings! By threatening violence to the reporter-and not showing much commitment to seek the truth, they seems to be afraid that the truth may not be on their side.

Some other distractions to this truth seeking approach are: some commentators try to justify the `pendatang’ remark by linking it to past questioning of Malays’ rights by non-Malays. This seems to admit the guilt than to defend Ahmad-something which Ahmad himself had not conceded. The journalists had pointed out that politicians has the habit to blame journalist for misreporting -and they had asked 2 other journalists present to become witnesses to the report. So far the score on seeking truth is : politicians: 0; Journalists : 1.

While the truth based approach is a missing element in the debate among politicians there is another angle to this debate: should Ahmad Ismail be prosecuted under Sedition Act for making racial statement -if this is verified? There is a strong stand by civil society groups that Ahmad should not be prosecuted under Sedition Act-an act which had more often been used or threatened to be used against civil society groups/individuals -and which restrict freedom of speech. Ahmad and his supporters should be punished by falling political support if they persist. And the Permatang Pauh by-election result seems to bear out that the racial campaigning by UMNO, among others, had caused UMNO/BN to lose worse than in the Mar General Elections. So it seems that racial campaign is not so voters friendly as some may like to think.

So what is the police doing about the investigation into Ahamd’s `racial remark’? Are they going after the truth or are they waiting for instruction from `above’? Or are they waiting for the issue to be overtaken by others-but leaving an inconclusive settlement hanging in the people’s collective consciousness?

Ong BK

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