Rani Rasiah recalls how reason, logic and decency were thrown out of the window and the wildest of fabrications were woven to frighten Malaysians.
It is now eight days since 31 PSM activists were arrested (on 25 June 2011) by police on a mind-blowing allegation of collecting men and weapons to wage war against the King. From the outside we have been fighting a seemingly impossible battle to free our comrades from the clutches of the oppressive system that is all out to demonise us and criminalise our activities.
At the point of remand on the evening of 26 June 2011, we realised that we had become the first victims of a plot by the government to stop the Bersih 2.0 rally to be held on 9 July 2011. The government had tried both the soft approach and the hard, cajoling and threatening, but support for the rally for clean elections multiplied even more. The government’s fears about the potential of the rally seemed to have reached panic proportions, and it appeared that it had decided to abandon its civilised and democratic façade and use all the brute might it had at its disposal.
Reason, logic and decency were thrown out of the window and the wildest of fabrications were woven to frighten Malaysians with the scenario of an armed insurrection to replace the Barisan Nasional government.
From 24 June to 26 June, PSM activists were on a roadshow on two buses, one heading north from Johor to Kuala Lumpur, and the other heading south from Perlis, to campaign for change in the next general election. The campaign, dubbed ‘Udahlah ‘tu…Bersaralah’ , was about how the situation of workers and the marhein had grown from bad to worse in 54 years of BN rule and how continuing to vote for the BN would only further worsen things. The leaflet distributed during the road-show exhorted people to use their votes wisely by rejecting the BN in the next elections.
The activists were harassed (not unexpectedly) throughout the campaign, with arrests at a number of points along their routes, but on the second night of the campaign, the police came down hard. As the northern bus entered Penang, they were stopped at a police road-block and taken to the police station. The police began frantically searching for a credible charge to pin on the PSM activists. The options they were considering included illegal assembly (do people on a bus constitute an illegal assembly?), contravention of the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Sedition Act.
At about 4.00am of 26 June, the police arrived at their now infamous charge of preparing to wage war against the King! The evidence they had collected to arrive at this fantastic charge included some PSM newspapers, T-shirts bearing the images of Che Guevara and Malaysian independence fighters such as Rashid Maidin and Abdullah CD, a loud hailer, leaflets titled ‘Udahlah tu..’ and some Bersih leaflets.
After seven days in remand, during which the investigation team from Bukit Aman failed hopelessly to extract evidence to support their ridiculous charge, they resorted once more to their notorious detention without trial weapon. They released six activists – Kumar Devaraj, M. Sarasvathy, Choo Chon Kai, M Sugumaran, A Letchumanan and R Saratbabu – whom they saw as the leaders, and as the six took their first few steps to freedom outside the gates of the Kepala Batas District Police Station, Bukit Aman police rearrested them under the Emergency Ordinance (EO), and took them away to the Bukit Aman police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
The EO is a draconian law similar to the ISA, under which the authorities can hold people for 60 days without trial, but it is generally used on hardcore criminals. This is the first time it has been used on political prisoners, probably because the widespread use of the ISA previously has given the government a bad image.
Meanwhile at the Butterworth Magistrate’s court, 22 lawyers headed by Tuan Hj Sulaiman Abdullah, fought a tough battle to disallow the further seven-day remand extension sought by the police for the remaining 24 PSM activists. In the end, three were released and a three-day remand was allowed for the rest, in a decision dictated not by reason and rights but by orders from higher up.
It is a tough time for the PSM but we will emerge stronger from this attack on us.
Wealth unevenly distributed
As a socialist party, our struggles are based on the belief that the wealth of the country should be evenly distributed such that everyone can live in comfort in an environment without fear and with full human rights.
The policies of the BN government have made Malaysia currently the most unequal country in South East Asia. The gap between rich and poor continues and will continue to widen with the withdrawal of subsidies for essentials, the imposition of the GST, the widespread privatisation of government services, the refusal to enact a minimum living wage law and the signing of FTAs.
The PSM has campaigned against each of these, distributing leaflets, holding discussions and talks, putting up banners, presenting memorandums to the government, and as a last resort, holding demonstrations to persuade the government to listen. These are the PSM’s ‘weapons’ for a better Malaysia. These are the reasons the government has tried to use the communist bogey in an attempt to discredit and stop us. And to use us to discredit and stop the Bersih rally.
Rani Rasiah, an Aliran member, is deputy secretary general of PSM. She is the wife of PSM central committee member Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, also an Aliran member, who was detained without trial on 25 June 2011.
Rani Rasiah, an Aliran member, is a central committe member of PSM. She is the wife of PSM central committee member Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, also an Aliran member, who was detained without trial on 25 June 2011.