Fifteen police descended on the home of Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) general secretary S Arutchelvan (Arul) in Kajang, a suburban satellite of the capital city Kuala Lumpur, on February 19.
They detained him under the Sedition Act for a statement he issued on behalf of the PSM after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction on a sodomy charge.
Demonstrations for his release began immediately outside the police station where he was held. On February 20, he was released on the orders of a magistrate. The PSM and others are campaigning for the repeal of the colonial-era Sedition Act and for the release of Anwar.
Arul spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Peter Boyle via email on February 26.
* * *
What is your legal situation now? Are you charged with sedition or still only being investigated?
I am not charged yet. The police want two weeks to process the information on my mobile phone, modem and laptop — which they confiscated — before they decide. It will again be a political decision.
Meanwhile, the PSM may sue the Inspector-General of Police [IGP] for my illegal detention. The lawyers are ready but are awaiting for the go ahead from the PSM.
How do you explain your dramatic arrest and then release?
My surprise arrest on the first day of Chinese New Year (and part of a long weekend holiday in Malaysia) may be for a number of reasons:
• To punish me by detaining me over a holiday period, when it is also harder to mobilise support.
• To divert from the Sirul issue. [Sirul is a former bodyguard for the prime minister currently detained on immigration charges in Australia while sentenced to death in absentia by a Malaysian court for the murder of Altantuya, a Mongolian model and translator.]
Only the day before I was arrested, Sirul said he would tell all about who ordered him to kill Altantuya. The police told me that they got a sudden order to arrest me when they were planning my arrest a week after the Chinese New Year holidays.
• To intimidate people from speaking out against the Anwar verdict.
What has been the fate of the others threatened with sedition over criticisms of the conviction of Anwar?
So far nobody threatened by the IGP has actually been charged with sedition. Most have been remanded and released.
I won my remand in court. Activist Adam Adli and opposition Justice Party (PKR) youth leader Nik Nazmi didn't apply for remand, but the police released them within 24 hours. The police have since set up a new unit called “D5” specifically to nab people on sedition.