Police crackdown on protest atrocious, says opposition

Radio France International

Opposition leaders in Malaysia have slammed the govenrment after police broke up a demonstration against the Internal Security Act using used teargas and water-cannon. Prime Minister Najib Razak has promised to review the act but opponents want it repealed.

Malaysian police fired tear gas and water cannons today at more than 15,000 demonstrators protesting against the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for detention without trial.

Some 5,000 police arrested dozens of protesters in Kuala Lumpur, as they gathered at rallying points across the city.

Police say 175 people have been detained for taking part in the protest which ministers say was illegal.

"If you look at the way the protesters, ordinary citizens on the street, are treated and the amount of force used on them, that is actually atrocious," Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, a leader of the Keadilan Party which helped organise the protest, told RFI.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has promised to review the law, which dates back to the time of British colonial rule.

But Wan Azizah, whose husband Anwar Ibrahim was jailed and prosecuted for sodomy after being squeezed out of the deputy premiership, says the ISA must be scrapped.

"If he is sincere about doing that, he has to listen and he has to be tolerant of the fact that people are speaking against the act," she says. "It’s not just a review, we want a repealed act … because it has been abused so many times.

"This is not the first time that the government or the new Prime Minister who has just taken office says that they are going to review the act but nothing happens."