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Date: 10 Dec 1999
Malaysian group slams Mahathir's record on rights
A Malaysian group marked international human rights day Friday with calls to scrap the Internal Security Act (ISA) and what it called other undemocratic laws. Kua Kia Soong, chairman of rights group Suaram, described the ISA -- which allows indefinite detention without trial -- as the Indefensible Suppression Apparatus.
In a speech due to be delivered at Suaram's 10th anniversary dinner Friday night, Kua attacked the rights record of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
He said the rapid economic growth of the past 10 years "has been accompanied by greater authoritarianism while it was marked by corruption, cronyism and wasteful investments."
The power of the mass media, "owned and controlled by the ruling elite," had replaced that of elected parliaments.
Reviewing Suaram's record, Kua said it recorded all rights abuses, supported victims of abuse and their families and campaigned on environmental issues such as the Bakun dam in Sarawak and the Selangor river dam on the peninsula.
Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the opposition Democractic Justice Party, described the November 29 election as "the greatest violation of the human rights of Malaysians" since independence in 1957.
In a statement Lim urged the setting up of a national rights commission whose first task should be to investigate violations during what he called "the dirtiest election in the nation's history."
The National Front coalition retained its two-thirds parliamentary majority but lost ground to the opposition -- mainly to the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).
Lim alleged "massive cheating and fraud" in the polls but gave no details. He also complained of a campaign of "fear and falsehoods" by ruling parties - who told electors that a vote for an opposition alliance including PAS threatened the culture and religion of minority Chinese.
Lim said the opposition's failure to end the two-thirds majority would lead to "a more arbitrary, high-handed and undemocratic rule."
But Tian Chua, vice-president of the opposition National Justice Party (Keadilan), urged Malaysians to celebrate rights day with "joy and bliss."
"For the first time in history, the concerted effort by the people's movement has successfully unified all the opposition parties to challenge the hegemony of the (National Front)," he said.
Keadilan was founded by the wife of jailed ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar was detained on September 20, 1998, initially under the Internal Security Act.
Tian said in a statement that Anwar's detention "raised popular awareness of the cruelty" of the Act.
After a court trial, Anwar was jailed in April for six years for abusing his official powers.