Activist/journalist arrested after 1BlackMalaysia comment

By Wong Choon Mei, Suara Keadilan

Pro-democracy activist and former journalist Wong Chin Huat, who earlier today described Prime Minister Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia concept as 1BlackMalaysia, was arrested at his home just past 8 pm on Tuesday.

The police did not say why they arrested him but other activists believe Najib is trying to stop Malaysians from expressing solidarity with the Perak people and gathering in Ipoh on Thursday, May 7, the day of a crucial state assembly sitting.

According to his lawyer, the police said some one had lodged a report against Chin Huat. It is believed the arrest was made under the Sedition Act.

“I tried negotiating with the police officer but they wouldn’t listen to me. They didn’t want to tell under what section of the Sedition Act that the arrest was made and who the complainant is,” said his lawyer Edmund Bon, who was on his way to the police headquarters in Bukit Aman.

A former political columnist, Chin Huat is also chairman of the Writer Alliance for Media Independence and a journalism lecturer in the Arts Discipline of the School of Arts and Sciences, Monash University, Sunway campus in Malaysia.

Earlier on Tuesday, together with several other activists from Bersih or Coalition for Clean and Fair Election, Chin Huat had urged all Malaysians to dress in black on May 7 to protest Prime Minister Najib Razak’s power grab in Perak.

Their protest slogan was 1BlackMalaysia: Democracy First. Election Now – a play on Najib’s 1Malaysia: People First. Performance Now.

PAS leader Zulkifli Ahmad, PKR’s Sivarasa Rasiah, DAP’s Tony Pua and Maria Chin from pressure group Empower also attended the Bersih press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

“Let everyone see a sea of black walking into an office, market, mosque, temple, church, college, park, bus. Let us be united in one black colour to show the world that the 1Malaysia under Najib Razak is 1BlackMalaysia living in darkness,” he had told a press conference.

Stop it, think rationally – make a new start!

In an immediate response, civil society leaders expressed shock and urged Najib to go back to basics and think rationally for the sake of the nation.

Ramon Navaratnam, former president of Transparency International, asked Najib to make a fresh start in political hot-spot Perak, where the newly-appointed prime minister had plotted an unpopular putsch against the Pakatan Rakyat administration led by PAS leader Nizar Jamaluddin.

“The arrest appears to be unfair. Chin Huat was just describing in dramatic terms how he perceives the developments in Perak. It has to be accepted, even by those at the very top, that in the end the democratic and sovereign rights of the people must prevail over and above the interests of any particular group or party,” said Ramon.

“The right to and freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. The statements and expressions that have appeared as a result of the crisis in Perak are what you would expect from a healthy and functioning democratic system.

“Prime Minister Najib Razak must put an end to all this. He must make a new start in Perak. There has been so much turmoil as a result of the decision not to call for fresh election. Three months have passed and it is clear that the decision was ill-advised. Let us all go back to basics and return the peoples’ sovereign rights back to the people.”

Don’t be frightened by this caveman tactic, all the more stand up for Perak

Nevertheless, despite the undue police pressure, a huge turnout is still expected in Ipoh on Thursday, May 7, where Najib’s Umno-BN is widely expected to flout state laws in order to push through motions at the state legislative sitting in a bid to cling to power.

BN Menteri Besar Zambry Kadir had last week tried to ban the press from attending the sitting, allowing only official or Umno-friendly media to cover the event. His move was sharply criticised and overturned the next day by Speaker of the state assembly, V Sivakumar.

Perak police have also begun pressuring Pakatan assemblymen, descending on their homes in two or three vans on each occasion in a bid to embarrass them and their families.

Yet all of them have vowed to join Nizar in attending the sitting to protect the rights of their constituents. Three-quarters of Perakians are unhappy with Zambry and have been demanding fresh state-wide election.

“This latest arrest so close to Black Thursday is certainly a tactic to frighten people not to gather and express solidarity for the Perak people. It is a caveman tactic, old politics that Malaysians must not be frightened by. In fact all the more, they must stand up and express their rights,” said Tian Chua, Keadilan’s strategic director.