Bersih chief held under new security law

Maria Chin looks on during the Bersih 5.0 rally press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 17, 2016.
Maria Chin looks on during the Bersih 5.0 rally press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 17, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

Malaysia's authorities have detained Maria Chin Abdullah, the leader of the Bersih movement, under a new law that replaced the tough Internal Security Act (ISA) with Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi warning yesterday that police will be making more arrests.

Police had by yesterday evening detained some 20 people linked to the Bersih street rally, including four from the rival Red Shirts movement that had promised a "counter rally".

They included Jamal Yunos, the brash leader of the pro- Umno group the Red Shirts that had threatened violence if Bersih went ahead with yesterday's march.

Police said Datuk Seri Jamal will be detained for four days from yesterday.

Only Ms Maria has so far been detained under the controversial Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma, a law meant to protect public order and security.

Under Sosma, she could be detained for up to 28 days without legal representation.

"We will be filing something to get her released," said lawyer-activist Ambiga Sreenevasan at yesterday's rally.

Ms Maria was arrested on Friday evening, the eve of the rally, for attempting to commit "activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy", police said.

After the Bersih 5 rally ended peacefully yesterday, police detained several other activists.

According to Bernama news agency, Deputy Prime Minister Zahid said: "There is no issue of abuse of power because those arrested do not come from one side. More will be arrested."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 20, 2016, with the headline 'Bersih chief held under new security law'. Print Edition | Subscribe