By Peter Boyle
July 17, 2011 — Green Left Weekly — A week after Malaysian authorities failed to stop people taking to the streets of the capital Kuala Lumpur on July 9 to demand free and fair elections, six activists from the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) remained in detention without trial. The detainees include federal member of parliament Dr Jeyakumar Deveraj, who has been hailed by a prominent local writer as “the Malaysian saint of the poor”.
PSM secretary general S. Arutchelvan told Green Left Weekly that he agreed with the civil society organisers of the July 9 Bersih 2.0 (“bersih” means clean in Malay) that the number of people who defied incredible police repression to come out in the streets that day was about 50,000. Police reportedly detained up to 1600 people and repeatedly fired teargas into peaceful groups of people.
“I estimate 50,000, but thousands more were denied entry to KL that day. Al Jazeera reported that 100,000 turned out, the BBC reported 120,000. But the government-controlled local media said it was only 10-20,000. The police said there were only 5-6000.
“But if there had been no massive crackdown, mass arrests, buses denied permits, lock down of Kuala Lumpur, then the numbers of people who took to the streets would have easily gone beyond 100,000.”
Most of the democracy supporters detained on July 9 have since been freed, but the six PSM detainees remain in solitary confinement in several police stations around the country. They are locked up in tiny and 2 metres-by-2.5 metre cells, where they are forced to sleep on the floor with the lights on and face repeated and aggressive hours-long interrogations.
In interrogations, some of the detainees have been threatened with charges carrying the death penalty. They described this as “mental torture”.
Two detainees have been taken under guard to hospital because of heart concerns.
The authorities have used a large variety of legal pretenses for the detention of the PSM activists.
The six were part of a larger of group of 30 PSM activists detained on June 25 while participating in a peaceful political roadshow calling on the Barisan Nasional government to resign.
First, they were remanded for seven days so they could be investigated under Section 122 of Malaysia’s penal code for allegedly “waging war against the King”.