KUALA LUMPUR: Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz has rejected former PM Mahathir Mohamad’s allegation that Bersih chief Maria Chin Abdullah’s detention is politically motivated.
Speaking to FMT, Nazri said the decision to arrest a person for security reasons has always been entirely up to the police.
He said Mahathir, as a former prime minister, should know better than to accuse the Putrajaya administration of ordering the arrest.
He reminded Mahathir of the 1987 Ops Lalang, a security crackdown which saw many opposition leaders and activists nabbed under the now repealed Internal Security Act (ISA).
“The then IGP gave Mahathir a list of those he wanted to arrest under ISA,” he said. “Mahathir, who was the prime minister at the time, knew he had no say over the matter. It’s the IGP’s call because security is not an issue that can be compromised.”
Hence, he added, it was unfair of him to blame the government for Maria’s detention under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma).
At a press conference on Tuesday, Mahathir said Putrajaya had abused Sosma in applying it on Maria. He said Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration had acted against her only because she did not agree with its politics.
Mahathir recalled that Nazri, who was the de facto law minister when Sosma became law, had assured the public that it would never be used for political reasons.
“Yes,” said Nazri, “I did say that and I will still say it should not be used for political reasons, but I don’t know the circumstances and the facts that led to the IGP’s decision to arrest [Maria] under Sosma.
“But it’s not up to me. If the IGP feels that he needs to detain some individuals to avoid chaos, then it’s his call.
“Mahathir can’t turn around now and make it seem as if I and the government didn’t honour our promise. He is politically stupid to make such statement.”
Maria was arrested last Friday. Under Sosma, police can detain her without trial for up to 28 days.