Top Malaysian security officials are engaged in an unusual debate with some members of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition government amid claims that police “tortured” 12 men detained over alleged links to a former Sri Lankan militant group.
Harsh words from leaders of PH’s Democratic Action Party (DAP) against the police have raised eyebrows, as the government and the police are supposed to be on the same side.
DAP is one of four parties in the ruling coalition following the ouster of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government last year.
The DAP leaders claim that there is a “deep state” within the civil service that wants to undermine the party, and said none of its members was raising funds to revive the defunct militant group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or Tamil Tigers, which is banned in Malaysia and 30 other countries.
“A common question that remains unanswered is why action was taken against DAP-elected representatives by the present government for alleged offences committed before 2018 when the previous BN government had not taken similar action against them,” DAP secretary-general and Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said in a statement last week, after a meeting of all MPs and state lawmakers.
Two DAP state assemblymen for Negeri Sembilan and Melaka were arrested with 10 other ethnic Indians between October 10 and 12 by Malaysia’s anti-terror division.
The police have said that “big amounts” of money were involved “to fund LTTE-related activities” over a few years. Eleven of the men have been charged over their support for and possession of materials relating to the LTTE, while the two charges against a Negeri Sembilan state lawmaker were dropped on Wednesday.
The arrests have raised suspicion in Malaysia that some PH leaders are trying to put DAP on the defensive.
DAP leaders had attacked Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for attending the “racist” Malay Dignity Forum last month, and for harbouring Muslim preacher Zakir Naik, who is wanted in India for terrorism and money laundering charges in Malaysia even though New Delhi wants to question him for his role in Islamist militancy.
Director of Asia Institute Tasmania at the University of Tasmania Professor James Chin, referring to the detained assemblymen, said: “Bottom line is this ... If found guilty, how come DAP did not vet them before selecting them as candidates? If found not guilty, how come DAP cannot prevent the arrest in the first place or even get them free early on?”
DAP leaders have condemned the detentions under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma – the legislation that replaced the Internal Security Act.
The son and daughter-in-law of detainee B Subramaniam have alleged through their lawyer that he was subjected to abuse and threats by the police in jail.
“When we saw him for the first time five days after his arrest on October 10, he was in tears. He said they really threatened him, saying all his five sons and his wife were caught and were in jail,” said daughter-in-law R Thiviya.
National police chief Abdul Hamid Bador and Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin have denied the allegations. “But if they assume getting into lock-up is being tortured, then it is too bad as it is the law,” Abdul Hamid told reporters on Monday in Sabah.
Under Sosma, the authorities are allowed to detain a suspect for 28 days without trial, after the initial 24 hours following an arrest.
An intelligence source told The Straits Times that the authorities use various methods to extract information from suspected militants.
“Our approach is stern but there is no use [in] using physical force when dealing with ideologies, especially when we are trying to extract information, or we would never get anything.
“It also does not make sense to caress their hair and serve nasi lemak [a favourite Malaysian breakfast] to make them talk,” the source said.
THE STRAITS TIMES/ANN