Malaysian Police Arrest Opposition Figures over by-Election

Published December 22nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Malaysian police Friday arrested two senior opposition officials over an incident during a by-election last month, which the ruling coalition lost, an opposition party leader said. 

The National Justice Party (Keadilan) accused the government of vindictiveness and of launching a vendetta after its defeat. 

Police said Tian Chua, a Keadilan vice president, was detained in the early hours of the morning under a law dealing with rioting -- an offence punishable by up to two years' jail and a fine. 

Keadilan information chief Ruslan Kassim was also detained under the same section, according to the party deputy president Chandra Muzaffar. Police spokesmen could not be reached to confirm Ruslan's arrest. 

Four other opposition supporters were charged in court Thursday over the same incident. 

"It shows they (the ruling coalition) are bad losers," Chandra told AFP. 

All the arrests apparently relate to an incident on the morning of polling day on November 29 in the Lunas constituency, when opposition officials blocked busloads of government supporters from entering the town. 

Keadilan, which is headed by the wife of jailed ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, claimed they were "phantom" voters bussed in from out of state to vote fraudulently. 

The ruling National Front coalition, headed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, claimed they were merely government supporters. 

Riot police were deployed at the time to disperse the rival groups. 

Chandra described the arrests of Tian Chua and Ruslan as "totally ridiculous" and said there had been no rioting or violence during the incident. 

He said opposition supporters had asked the bus drivers to stop and redirected them to the police station. Police later directed the buses out of the constituency, Chandra said. 

The four already charged in court were bailed pending trial. They are accused of stopping five busloads of people from going to the National Front's headquarters in Lunas in the northwestern state of Kedah. 

Keadilan won the state assembly seat in a stinging setback to Mahathir's coalition. 

"What hope is there for democratic change in Malaysia if each time the ruling elite loses an election, it becomes vindictive and launches a vendetta against its opponent?" Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said in a statement. 

Home (interior) Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the arrest of Tian Chua did not signal a wider crackdown on the opposition.  

"We don't work that way. If it's wrong, it's wrong, we'll arrest. If two or three people do something wrong, they too will be arrested," Bernama news agency quoted him as saying. 

"But if they have not done anything wrong, arrest for what?" 

If Tian Chua was arrested, he must have done something wrong, Abdullah was quoted as saying. 

Mahathir, in a speech on Tuesday, told police to "be professional in discharging their duties and not take part in political or racial disputes." 

He did not refer to any specific incident -- KUALA LUMPUR (AFP)  

 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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