It was the foulest deed committed by the Barisan Nasional - detaining Maria Chin Abdullah under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, otherwise known as Sosma.
Sosma is meant to combat terrorists and curb terrorism. But Maria Chin is not a terrorist; neither is she engaged in terrorism. She did not excite disaffection against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. She did not organise violence against persons or property. She did not encourage the overthrow of the government by foul means.
She did not do anything to warrant her detention under Sosma. She didn’t deserve this at all. She is a patriot.
Maria was engaged in lawful activities democratically. She is against corruption and dirty politics and unfair elections. She is for strengthening democracy and empowering the people of Sabah and Sarawak. All this cannot be deemed a threat to the nation or a risk to our security.
As chairperson of Bersih, Maria Chin organised a protest to demand five pressing issues that are not opposed by Malaysians. Are there any Malaysians opposed to free and fair elections, clean government, the strengthening of parliamentary democracy, the right to dissent and the empowerment of Sabah and Sarawak?
Indeed, she was engaged in an activity that was lawful and not opposed by Malaysians because they have no reason to oppose these five just demands.
By no stretch of the imagination could her action be construed as criminal.
But the real reason suspected by many is that the BN wanted the Bersih 5 rally to collapse and fail so that there would be no visible sign of a mammoth gathering of Malaysians to demonstrate their frustration with the BN government. The huge gathering would impact the BN very negatively and would have disastrous consequences for it in the 14th general election. Therefore, this gathering had to be prevented and stopped.
They thought that by arresting Maria Chin and Bersih secretariat officer Mandeep Singh (photo), the Bersih 5 rally would be rudderless and would grind to a stop. This did not happen.
They misread the mood and the determination of Malaysians to stand up in spite of the fear tactics and intimidation deployed by the police and Umno politicians. They failed to quell the rally from taking place because it was inspired by ideals and idealism that are very dear to Malaysians.
They have created more Maria Chins!
They lost face and lost their senses, it seems. In vengeance, they detained Maria under Sosma. In doing so, they have created another problem for themselves. Instead of putting away Maria, they have created more Maria Chins. As Ambiga Sreenevasan said, we are all Maria Chins now!
The point to remember is that Maria is not a terrorist threatening the nation. She should never be detained under Sosma.
She is being confined cruelly under deplorable and inhuman conditions. Her human rights have been set aside and the rule of law has been totally ignored.
Maria is being confined in a solitary 15 feet by 8 feet cubicle without windows. No sunlight is permitted into this cubicle. Two light bulbs are on for 24 hours. The idea is to deprive her of sleep and her sense of time. She would not be able to sleep and she would not know the time. This is the tactic they use on terrorists to break them down.
Malaysians are rightly outraged that a brave woman who stood up for the right values and the democratic space for all of us and who wanted the rule of law to prevail is being subjected to horrendous treatment. We Malaysians condemn the Umno government that has resorted to the law of the jungle to remain in power.
We demand her immediate and unconditional release. We will not tolerate any delay in her release.
Let us be reminded by the saying, “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”
Therefore, we call upon the political leaders from the Opposition and lawyers from the Malaysian Bar to mount a challenge to secure Maria Chin’s freedom. If necessary, her detention under Sosma must be raised at the Human Rights Council of the United Nations to highlight BN’s high-handed conduct in denying her freedom and the inhuman treatment she is being subjected to.
In the meantime, Malaysians must remember this injustice perpetrated on a poor woman who meant well for the nation. At the coming GE14, we must totally reject the Umno-BN government.
P RAMAKRISHNAN is an executive committee member of the reform movement Aliran.-Mkini