Malaysia: Malaysian People’s Courageous Fight for Democracy


Urgent Appeal Case: UA981102
ISSUES: Democracy,

The ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION urge you to continue your support for justice and human rights in Malaysia. Five persons are still detained under the Malaysian Internal Security Act [ISA]. Anwar detained under ISA, which was later lifted, is still remanded in jailed. Meanwhile, 178 persons were charged with illegal assembly, disobeying police orders and rioting on 30 October 1998. The 177 who plead not guilty will face trail in February 1999. Only one person pleaded guilty and was jailed for six weeks. Former deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s trial starts today. The International Community is strongly encourage to continue their support for the Malaysian people in their struggle to establish justice, human rights and democracy.

Continuing the Malaysian People’s Courageous Fight for Democracy

Continuing their break with 35 years of silence, the Malaysian people engaged in another month of protest to regain their rights and re-establish democracy. With persistent street demonstrations; many meetings in private homes; many publications; constant pleading before their courts and the international community; concern in every man and woman’s heart; and prayers; Malaysians pushed their agenda to replace Mahathir’s authoritarianism with democracy. They successfully passed the message to the world that they were fed up with Mahathir’s repressive regime and his internal security regime; that they wanted a say in the way Malaysia is run; and that they wanted a judicial system that functions as an independent institution. To prove they were serious about their demands they faced tear gas mixed with irritant substances and several hundred braved arrests.

Mahathir’s regime, true to its reputation, still believes that the people can be subdued and intimidated and that authoritarianism can still survive in Malaysia. International audiences have had the opportunity to see Mahathir’s style of speech in the many press interviews he has been giving regarding the crisis he is facing. His style is to appeal to emotion rather than reason. So far he has made no attempt to explain to the world how and why such a huge mass protest grew against him and how such a crisis came about in his regime. His attempts to blame the crisis on one man, one who had been his own deputy for sixteen years, are hardly plausible. His theories about an international conspiracy seem a fairytale when the attendance at some meetings organised by sacked Malaysian deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, 51, before his arrest was over 100,000 people and when in many instances street demonstrations drew over 10,000 people, men and women.

Evidence of Torture

What has the worst political implications for the Malaysian prime-minister is the emerging evidence of torture, cruel and inhuman punishment, and Stalinist-style orchestrated trials. For example, the case of Munawar Ahmad Anees, 51, is drawing serious protest within Malaysia as well as internationally. According to an October 24, 1998, AFP Report, Munawar, a jailed Pakistani associate of Anwar’s, has accused police of humiliating and brainwashing him prior to his ‘confessing’ to homosexual acts with Anwar. Munawar, a scientist who once wrote speeches for Anwar, said he was shaved bald and repeatedly blindfolded, handcuffed and interrogated after being arrested from home September 14, under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA). Munawar said in an October 23 High Court application that as part of his appeal against his conviction, his lawyers will file a detailed record of what happened to him since he was taken in by police.

Munawar was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment September 19 after what his family and lawyers described as ‘an involuntary confession’ of sodomy with Anwar. \"I have narrated to my lawyers my systematic humiliation by my captors who always remained unidentified, of how they stripped me of all self-respect, of how they degraded me and broke down my will and resistance, of how they brainwashed me to the extent that I ended up in Court on 19 September a shivering shell of a man willing to do anything to stop the destruction of my being,\" the AFP Report quotes Munawar as saying.

Anwar himself has accused police of beating him and remains under detention pending trial, which begins with four corruption cases to be heard November 2. Munawar said in his court application that, having his been moved from prison to a hospital after complaining of chest pains, uninvited visitors \"kept on trying to alternately threaten, convince and advise me against filing or proceeding with an appeal against the conviction and sentence recorded against me.\" He asked the High Court to order police to issue details of his transfers to different locations following his arrest and the identities of the officers involved. Munawar also demanded the return of all items including his writings, family pictures, video and audio cassettes, books and publications which police confiscated after allegedly ransacking his home when he was arrested.

The AFP Report concludes by saying that Munawar and Anwar’s adopted brother Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja, 37, were sentenced on the same day for alleged acts of sodomy with Anwar on separate occasions. Lawyers for Sukma are also appealing his conviction.

Resistence against the abuse of Internal Security Acts

These cases show that Mahathir is no longer the master of his house of repression. When he had such control ISA victims were not brought to court. The prime minister’s signature was alone enough to seal their fates. Now, public pressure has forced him to bring them to courts and under the scrutiny of the mass media.

The real issue here is that of the horrendous Internal Security laws. The question is whether Malaysia can end its rule by these laws. The people seem to feel confident that these can be defeated and that this defeat will depend on the extent of resistance they are willing put up.

By now, the fall of Mahathir’s authoritarian regime is an almost mathematical certainty, like the sinking of the Titanic or the fall of Suharto. Although the collapse of authoritarianism necessarily opens up space for democratisation, the real issue concerns whether and how the democratic forces in Malaysia will use the situation to their advantage. It concerns whether and how democracy can be consolidated after 35 years of weakening in the country’s democratic institutions. The examples of both Indonesia and Cambodia show that a falling authoritarianism can leave a legacy of anarchy. A fallen Mahathir and his friends may want to have ‘the last laugh’ in the emergence of such anarchy. It is for the Malaysian people, particularly those active in struggling for democracy, to prevent this from happening.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: AHRC condemns the use of Internal Security Act (ISA) as a violation of the rule of law, human rights and the principles of democratic government and calls on the Malaysian government to repeal the ISA in total. AHRC is very concern on the frequent unreasonable force used by the police to disperse peaceful rallies and protests. Stress that amid allegations that Anwar Ibrahim was beaten while in police custody the presence of. competent local and foreign observers will make the trial process more transparent and fair.

Please continue to send your appeals letters and faxes to the Malaysian authorities urging: – all ISA detainees be released immediately without conditions – condemn the use of the ISA on legitimate expressions of dissent; – that police brutality at peaceful gatherings of citizens be curbed immediately;and the right to freedom of assembly and expression be respected. – release all those arrested in the streets immediately or charge them immediately; – condemn the use of force and intimidation on detainees and condemn police intimidation on family and friends of the detainees; – ensure that all medical assistance will be made available to detainees; – urge that bail be given to Anwar Ibrahim for the duration of his trial. – called for foreign observers to be allowed to attend the trial of Anwar Ibrahim.


Dato Seri Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Jalan Dato’ Onn 50502 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Faxes: 603 – 238 3784, 2984172,

Dato Tajol Rosli Ghazali Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Jalan Dato Onn 50502 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Faxes: 603 – 230 1051

Datuk Mokhtar Abdullah Attorney General’s Chambers Jabatan Peguam Negara Malaysia, Tingkat 20, Bangunan Bank Negara Malaysia Jalan Tangsi, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Fax: 60-3-2984172

Tan Sri Rahim Noor, Inspector-General of Police Ibu Pejabat Polis Persekutuan, Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Fax: 603-2910707

send copies to diplomatic representative of Malaysia accredited to your country.

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA981102
Countries : Malaysia,
Issues : Democracy,