Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 24 November 2016

In 1987, the Mahathir government tried to justify the mass arrests and detentions without trial under Operation Lalang with a “White paper” on the supposed clandestine connections of all the people caught in the dragnet. We called it a “Whitewash caper” over the detention without trial of Malaysian citizens – apart from the overall lie, it was filled with half-truths, distortions and generally, bad fiction. Even Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez at the time (Now Malaysia’s first Cardinal) castigated the poor attempt at fiction writing:

“The White paper’s reference to the use of Liberation Theology by the so-called ‘Marxist Group’ appears to us a cheap imitation of the allegations of the Singapore Government against those arrested last year (1987) on similar charges.”

Operation Lalang was really a cynical attempt by the Mahathir government to frighten the population and social activists into submission to the will of the state. After it began, the Tunku declared:

“Overnight, Malaysia has become a police state.”

Only insecure regimes need detention without trial laws. That is why after finally being forced to jettison the ISA, the government finds the need to have SOSMA, POTA and POCA in its convenient box of tricks to deal with dissidents who think outside the box.

The same bad fiction in 2016

Maria was arrested under Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) a day before the Bersih 5 rally, for investigations under Section 124C of the Penal Code for attempting “activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy”. This is tenuously linked to the fact that the electoral reform movement has received funds from the George Soros-linked Open Society Foundations.

The inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar has said that Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah’s detention under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act is not politically-motivated or related to the recent rally. He said Maria was arrested following the discovery of “documents” during a raid at the Bersih office in Petaling Jaya last week:

“There were enough reasons for us to investigate her under Section 124C of the Penal Code, so we arrested her after the raid… The arrest was for a potential threat to national security…We all know what the OSF is and how many countries it has ‘toppled’ in its own ways,” he said. Khalid clarified that Sosma, unlike the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, has a wider scope and could be used against other forms of threats to national security.

Umno information chief Annuar Musa has chipped in to claim that Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah has links to US intelligence bureau Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) through the tenuous connections of the NGOs she has worked for.

And what will 28 days of interrogation reveal?

First of all, what bearing does the view of this Umno leader have on police investigations? Secondly, what will 28 days of solitary confinement reveal when the Government’s six agencies already failed to pin any charges on SUARAM after more than six months of intense investigations over the same tenuous links in 2012 and 2013?

The UMNO chief Annuar has also pointed out that Maria was involved in human rights and feminist NGOs which are pro-LGBT, such as the Women’s Development Collective (WDC), Empower and Sisters in Islam (SIS). Is that also subject to investigation under SOSMA? Is UMNO unaware that all these NGOs he has named are legitimate and legal organizations which have been operating in Malaysia for decades?

Government should be a good role model for integrity

To be “a society that is at peace with itself” (Vision 2020), the government cannot go on writing bad fiction. It must set itself up as a role model for integrity. Integrity springs from strong adherence to principles of truth, social justice and the rule of law. We will never be at peace with ourselves as long as we continue to detain people without trial and proceed to justify this with lies, distortions and generally, bad fiction…


Dear Participants of Bersih 5. A brief security reminder!

1. Stay away from agent provocateurs (even if they are wearing yellow t-shirts) and let BERSIH Security Team handle the situation. Avoid direct confrontation. They will be apprehended and handed over to the police. Form a ring around them and record their actions using video and/or photos.

2. We are there for a peaceful assembly. No weapons of any form should be brought nor should there be any destruction or defacement of properties. Again, anyone involved in such acts will be apprehended and handed over to the police.

3. Always follow the instructions of our authorised security volunteers. They will all be in our purple security t-shirts and carry a tag. When in doubt, call other security volunteers to verify their identity.

4. Should the police use pepper spray pellets to shoot at protesters, turn your back to them and quickly move away. Do not panic but follow the directions of the BERSIH Security Team.

5. We would also have clearly distinguishable placards to communicate with the crowd e.g. “UNDUR”, “SENYAP” etc.

6. Our assembly time on 19 November is from 10am to 6pm. Gather at the designated points at 10am or where there are large crowd of BERSIH supporters. Please disperse orderly after 6pm. The designated gathering points are Bangsar LRT (Dataran Maybank) and Masjid Negara.

7. In case of emergencies, our security teams will move you to the following evacuation points – KLCC, KL Sentral and Bangsar LRT.

8. Participants should not consume any drinks or food left by the roadside. This is to avoid poisoning by saboteurs.

9. We have independent observers, both local and international, who will be monitoring the BERSIH 5 rally. The medic team with 140 medical professionals and 6 ambulances are also on standby to assist in any emergencies. In case of an arrest, SMS your full name and IC number to our Urgent Arrest Team at 011-21376814 or 011-39376684.

10. Download Bersih official app, Prime, and get official updates and instructions on your phones. It is available free on both Android and iOS. Also follow Bersih official social media channels: Facebook (, Twitter (, and Instagram ( Pay no heed to news that do not come from our official channels.

As organiser of the rally, BERSIH 2.0 will always seek to work in close cooperation with the police to ensure an orderly and peaceful assembly. We have assembled a 1,400-strong BERSIH Security Team to assist in traffic control, crowd control, stop provocations and to prevent criminal acts. They will be ready to work closely with the police to achieve these tasks.