Almost three-dozen opposition figures in Malaysia remain in detention after being arrested prior to a banned political rally planned for next month.
Authorities in Kuala Lumpur accused the 30 people – including an opposition member of the parliament -- of seeking to overthrow the government and adhering to Communism.
The deputy police chief of Penang, Abdul Rahim, told the media: Based on paraphernalia seized by police from the activists, it can be seen that they have connections with the Communist Party of Malaya ideology.”
According to the national news agency, Bernama, the nation’s Information Minister Rais Yatim has called for severe punishment of the detainees, emphasizing that Communism is outlawed and not recognized in Malaysia,
Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the opposition leader, has called for the release of the prisoners and said the allegation of Communism is a flimsy pretext for detention.
The thirty detainees will reportedly be investigated for allegedly “waging war” against the country’s constitutional monarchy – conviction of such a charge could lead to life imprisonment.
Opposition parties and human rights groups are planning a huge street rally on July 9 to demand political reforms, including increased electoral transparency.
Rally organizers insist that they are not seeking to overthrow the government, but rather to make the electoral system truly free and fair. They added that the arrest of the activists was a stark and alarming lack of logic and common sense [that] will further tarnish our nation's image.”
Human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar told reporters: The police campaign appears to be aimed more at intimidation, apparently on the misconceived basis that this is a legitimate means to preserving public order.”
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak has told the public to avoid the planned rally, which he described as an “illegal assembly” and a plot by the opposition to undermine the ruling government.
Do not create chaos just because you want power. If there is chaos, then [the organizers] will be held responsible, Razak told the Star newspaper.
The Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein warned that rally participant could face arrest without trial should they cause public disorder.
The National Front coalition -- which has ruled Malaysia for more than five decades – has long been accused of voter fraud and manipulating election results.
Razak is widely expected to call a general election later this year.