On June 1, 2003, Malaysian trade union organiser and democracy activist,Tian Chua, was released from “preventative custody.” His release came after a vigorous international protest campaign which not only raised the call for Tian Chua’s release but demanded the immediate abolition of Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA).
The ISA was introduced in the 1960s (see FS Bulletin #20) and, since its inception, has been used to detain more than 4,000 people.
Tian Chua and five other activists were detained in April 2001, prior to planned mass demonstrations against the Mahathir Government and in support of former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim. The detainees, who became known as the ISA 6, were detained and questioned for 60 days before being held without trial for a further two years. Under the ISA, the government can renew the initial two-year detention order, which in effect enables it to detain critics indefinitely.
The ISA 6 have pledged to continue the fight to abolish the ISA. Tian Chua said: “We feel relief, but it is not yet freedom. The freedom will come when the ISA is abolished.” Tian Chua dismissed suggestions that the release of the ISA 6 — which sparked the formation of a broad coalition known as the Anti-ISA Movement — will take the political heat out of the struggle. “ISA is not finished, as there are 100 plus individuals who are still detained under the law.”
The ISA 6 have filed a suit against the police and the government over their illegal detention. The group will claim compensation. Tian Chua explains, “The government’s decision to release us will not stop us from going ahead with this plan. We will seek justice for all the false accusations, arrests and hardships that we have gone through.”
Demonstrations in Malaysia and international solidarity actions around the world were key to the release of Chua and the other five activists. This movement has succeeded in raising the profile of the ISA and increasing the determination of many organisations and activists to see it abolished.
We encourage readers to raise the demand to abolish the ISA at their union meetings, on campus, in letters to the editor and as part of our local struggle to resist the use of the new ASIO powers.
Write to authorities in Malaysia welcoming the release of Tian Chua and his comrades. Demand the release of all ISA detainees and the immediate abolition of this police-state law.
- Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad, Prime Minister.
Fax: 603-8888-3444. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi, Minister of Home Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister.
Fax: 603-8886-8014. E-mail: email@example.com