The recent ISA detentions of leading Malaysian opposition-activists mark a low-point in the already tumultuously controversial sheenanigans of the Barisan Nasional-led 'government' that the country has been forced to endure over the last few years.

Much has been said about the gross human rights violations of the BN in their mismanagement of this country, so I will instead point out other alarming matters that will arise from this latest conspiracy between UMNO, the BN and the police.

Beyond the issues of human rights and reformasi, ISA detentions are bad for business. Instead of uniting the country to face the economic challenges and problems we and the rest of the region are facing, the BN find yet another way of splintering the nation and giving foreign investors yet another excuse to treat Malaysia like a Third World country on the brink of disintegration, by serving up this so-called plot brewing between the Opposition and the armed forces.

By conjuring up fables of activists conspiring to buy weapons and leading an armed struggle with the nation's armed forces, the BN and the police have irresponsibly placed Malaysia on the global map of hot-spots for terrorism and violence. While the average Malaysian may laugh at this latest excuse given by the same police force who couldn't even handle the relatively smaller clashes in Kg Medan recently, people outside Malaysia may actually take this "armed struggle brewing in Malaysia" excuse very seriously. The police have proven their inefficiency in handling a village-level ethnic clash and yet, they issue statements suggesting that they can take on trained soldiers of the Malaysian armed forces in this so-called "conspiracy". Unfortunately, investors are not convinced of their abilities and so, they are viewing this allegation seriously. Business deals are at stake, as are jobs and the economic stability and security of the country. Yet, the BN and police persist in further threatening the fragile national security of Malaysia with their continued misguided actions and fantasy-spinning.

I strongly urge the police to stop issuing statements that imply that Malaysia is at the brink of anarchy and disintegration to justify the arrests without trial of opposition activists. If the police are able to bring to court suspected insurrectionists of the Al-Maunah group as well as suspected murderers/rioters of the Kg Medan clashes recently, then there should be no reason they cannot do the same with these seven opposition-activists. Produce the evidence and charge them in court. Or else release them. As long as these seven are detained without charge, the so-called "evidence" given by the police will be regarded by any thinking Malaysian as fictitious. It is yet another blow to the attempts of this country's citizens, who are trying their very best to compete on the world stage, to preserve whatever national dignity we have left after the BN has so thoroughly decimated it through corruption, mismanagement, economic and human rights violations and clownish mishandling of domestic and international issues.

Malaysia is a peaceful country, and unlike other countries, we are lucky to have an Opposition that has proven itself non-violent and caring to the interests of the people first. Unlike others, Malaysians are pragmatic and intelligent, even in their opposition. However, the BN-controlled police force seems to be more interested in stirring up fears of violence in an otherwise peaceful democracy.

The only recourse for the police to preserve national security is to immediately release the seven activists held under the ISA and stop issuing such irresponsible statements at once.

The streets of Malaysia's urban hubs are threatened by criminals and robbers. If they need something to do, perhaps the police should spend their time looking into the worrying and escalating crime rates in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and other towns in Malaysia, instead of thinking up new fantasies of army insurrections. Or, failing that, they can always look into the violence-prone UMNO division meetings around the country to keep them occupied, rather than wasting tax-payers' money picking up harmless activists and interrogating them for 60 days.

Sheryll Stothard
Vice President Parti Rakyat Malaysia
April 13, 2001