Malaysians brave freezing temperatures in London to protest against the ISA and UUCA

By Rian James 

Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA- UK staged a peaceful solidarity protest against the ISA and UUCA outside the Malaysian Tourism Office in Trafalgar Square in near freezing temperatures here in London on Saturday. Over two dozen concerned citizens turned out in bitterly cold weather to express their discontent with the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) and University and University Colleges Act (UUCA), both of which continue to conveniently used by the Malaysian government to quell debate around its corrupt and squandering administration.

The beat of the kompang played by Raja Petra Kamarudin kept the cadence as protesters chanted slogans such as, “Down, down with the ISA”, “Stop detention without trial”, “Malaysia, stop abusing human rights”, “Yes to Tourism,no to Torture” and “Malaysia- Stop prosecuting students!” while they held up anti-ISA and anti-UUCA placards and banners.  

In solidarity with the facebook group ‘1M Malaysians Reject 100-storey Mega Tower’ who have organised public cake eating events across Malaysia this month, the chanting in London stopped to give way to some cake-eating in defiance of Najib’s latest budget plan which included building a 100 storey mega-tower in Kuala Lumpur.  Citizens abroad have become increasingly concerned with the way Malaysian students, both at home and abroad, have been threatened with sponsorship withdrawals and expulsion when seen to question the government. Factions that have made even the slightest move towards questioning the status quo have been met with severe punitive force – UTAR students meeting to eat cake at Kampar’s McDonalds  in protest against the 100-storey Mega tower were met by 14 policemen and further chastised by UTAR; the UKM4, political science undergraduates who intended to attend the Ulu Selangor by-election while purportedly being in possession of pro-opposition paraphernalia now face suspension from university and trial under the UUCA.


The manner in which the government has sought to guillotine objective thought from young questioning minds projects its fear of being made redundant. Malaysians have raised intense concern over the government’s extravagant vanity projects as they face tougher financial circumstances subsequent to the 3% shrinkage of the economy in 2009 and further announcements by the government to cut fuel and sugar subsidies. The significance of cake eating is synonymous with the extravagant rule of the French monarch Marie Antoinette, who purportedly said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” or, ”Let them eat cake”, when she was informed that the peasants in France had no more bread to eat – alluding to the callousness, frivolity and detachment of the ruling class to the needs of the people.  
The 1960 Internal Security Act permits detention without trial or charge and disallows legal representation. Under the ISA, a person can be detained for up to 60 days, after which the detention order can be extended by the Minister of Home Affairs for up to two years and renewed every two years following that, effectively allowing indefinite detention without trial. An estimated 10,000 people have to date been detained under the ISA.

Techniques of interrogation by Special Branch police combine physical violence with mental persuasion, deception, and coercion involve intense mental and physical pressure, at times amounting to torture. When Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak became the 6th Prime Minister of Malaysia in April 2009, he pledged to conduct a comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act. Thus far, further action seems to have been swept under the carpet in the typical style of the ruling BN government. 

Section 15 of the University and University Colleges Act denotes that any student joining any off-campus societies — including political parties — commits a criminal offence that carries a jail term. The minister specifies in writing to the vice-chancellors, listing organisation he deems unsuitable to student interests thus making the university responsible for the actions of its students and causing self-censorship and internal-policing.  

Both these laws infringe on the basic human rights of political self determination, the right not to be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to liberty and security without being subject to arbitrary arrest or detention, the right to having an opinion without interference, the right to peaceful assembly and the right of association.  

One protestor  Liza Kadir, a law graduate said it was the first time she attended the regular gathering and decided to come after reading an article in Malaysian Insider about the Malaysian government keeping Malaysians abroad under watch. She said, “ I decided to turn up in defiance of that ridiculous statement by the Deputy Foreign Pillay that the Malaysian government are tracking our movements overseas. I mean, they are always boasting about how developed Malaysia is, but when it comes to their basic mentality, they still seem stuck in a bad replay of George Orwell’s 1983, with a Big Brother is watching you type of mentality. Well I am here today to tell them that the Malaysian people are watching them too, and they need to take urgent action to restore basic fundamental liberties in Malaysia.” 

Alex Lee, an engineer who has lived in London for 10 years said, “ I’ve been following the plight of the UKM 4 and then the recent saga about the UTAR students being banned from organizing a ‘cake solidarity protest’ against the 100-storey tower mega project in Malaysia. I mean, its all so completely ridiculous. On one hand we want to develop world class talent amongst our students and future leaders but on the other hand we are squashing any independence and freedom of thought and expression. This is a clear breach of these students basic fundamental human rights and is cultivating a culture of fear, oppression and self-censorship”.” 
One student studying in the UK, Mooza Mohd recited a poem she had written in solidarity with students back home who live under the constant threat of the UCCA. It was aptly entitled ‘Imprisonment, Here and Now.’  

You’re all under surveillance 
You’re movement monitored  
You’re every chant recorded 
You’re every action documented  
You’re all under suspicion 
Every picket sign will be reported 
And your face will be recognised 
No matter how carefully you hide 
There’s CCTV everywhere you are  
Marking your every walking step 
They know all about you 
They have you on Facebook 
A collection of your pictures 
Taken notes on your habits 
All of your history and families 
They are watching you right NOW 
Standing next to you, with files:  
Your medical report, your CV, your secret lover,  
Your history teacher, your blood type, your friends 
They will know this; whenever they need to.  
This is the methodology for imprisonment. 
Description of the prison more & more befitting for public spaces 
What’s the difference between those in prison 
And those who are standing here right this instant? 
What’s the difference between detention without trial 
And how we live under this government & institution? 
All the way from Putrajaya to Trafalgar Square 
Big brother will be watching us, says Pillay 
They caution our mind imposing fear 
And justify with “security & protection” 
Proclaiming that this form of ‘betrayal’  
Could potentially be deemed as treason 
This is the methodology for imprisonment. 
Knowing this do we still put caution to our minds? 
Put a stop to our tongues? Turn a blind eye? 
They will play with our fear and paranoia 
Try to put their strings to our every thought 
And orchestrate their plans like a pantomime 
Right Here. Right Now. 
If we only realise the prison around us 
And that we are left with no choice  
If we only realise the prison is in our heads 
The cop in our minds policing our life 
And guarding our independent thought 
Institution. Division. Construction. Destruction. Exploitation.  
Manipulation. Racism. Segregation. Mongolians. Politicians.  
Consumerism. Fascism. Domination. Religion. Capitalism.  
We are all potentially capable of seeing through it all 
But are we paying enough attention? 
Right Here. Right Now.  

Make a decision. Make a prison break.