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Arrest while PM holiday - MGG Pillai
By web aNtu
18/1/2000 3:13 am Tue
Opposition Arrests as Prime Minister Is Off On A Holiday
Within eighteen hours after the Prime Minister left on a fortnight
holiday overseas, three opposition politicians and a printer were
arrested on sedition charges in what can only ensure an even more
contested ground. The deputy prime minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi, takes responsibility, as Dato' (now Tan Sri) Musa Hitam did over
the Memali incident in Kedah in the early 1980s. The Prime Minister has
the knack of being out of the country in internal travails. When he
remains, as in September 1998 when he sacked his deputy prime minister
and orchestrated his expulsion from UMNO, his reputation gets tarnished.
So, when he is asked about it, as invariably he would, at the Davos
Forum in Switzerland later this month, he could glibly talk his way out.
But this crackdown was not unexpected. When UMNO is nervous and in
shell shock, as now, the opposition bears the brunt. But there seems to
be more than a holiday for the Prime Minister: every National Front
mentri besar and chief minister make their own way to join the Prime
Minister. Why I do not know. But I suspect this has to do with the
coming UMNO elections in May. The possibility of a 1987-like crackdown
cannot be ruled out.
Those arrested yesterday are Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim's counsel and
DAP deputy chairman, Mr Karpal Singh; the Parti Keadilan Nasional vice
president, Ms Marina Yusoff; the editor of PAS' biweekly paper,
Harakah, Mr Zulkifli Sulong; and the owner of the paper's printer, Mr
Chea Lin Thye. Mr Singh is expected to be charged for insinuating in
court during the Anwar trial, now going on, that "somebody out there"
poisoned his client to "get rid of him". It is a minefield of a case
that could well tax the resources of the Attorney General's Chambers.
Ms Marina's offence is her alleged remarks in Penang that UMNO started
the 1969 May 13 riots, which conflicts with the self-serving account of
the then Prime Minister, Tengku Abdul Rahman, and the government White
Paper on it, and neither written after a full-scale enquiry into the
riots. The Harakah editor and printer face charges over an article in
its August 2 edition. The New Straits Times reports today that another
opposition politician is expected to be charged soon. Another DAP
leader and son of its chairman, Mr Lim Guan Eng, was sentenced to 18
months in jail for sedition and was released from jail last August.
But the speed with which these charges were brought when several
detailed police reports made by Dato' Seri Anwar over corruption in high
places remains under wraps raises once again. The arrest of Mr Singh in
the midst of the trial and before the Prime Minister is due to appear as
a witness when the case resumes later this month adds to this
perception. So, it threatens to become, however justified and valid the
charges, in the end, yet another milestone in this affair of He Who Must
Be Destroyed At All Cost but refuses to. If Mr Singh should be charged,
it should have been after the trial was over. Otherwise, the bitter
political aftertaste would remain. As it is, his arrest could well
impinge on his client's continued trial for s###my later this month.
Somehow, one gets the impression that the political ramifications of
these arrests was not thought through. Even if this is Dato' Seri
Abdullah Badawi's baptism of fire.