Joint statement by Barisan veterans over detention

Making a stand: (from left) Shafie, Muhyiddin, Dr Mahathir, Razaleigh and Sanusi during a joint press conference at Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya.
PHOTO: The Star

The arrest of lawyer Matthias Chang, and prior to that, his client Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) is an abuse of power and act of desperation to silence critics. The use of Sosma on the two individuals is also against the spirit and purpose of the Act which was passed by Parliament.

This action by the authorities is very unfortunate for Malaysians because the message that is being delivered to the people is that if one reports an offence, the person who makes the report will be arrested.

To a right-thinking person, such action also shows that when a party is accused of committing a misdeed and a report is lodged against that party, any legal provisions existing will be used to cover up the wrongdoings of the accused.

Isn't it shameful that an individual accused of a misdeed makes no effort to prove his innocence but the person who reports the misdeed is arrested?

Since there is no law that can be used to arrest and detain the person who lodges a report, a law that was enacted for maintaining national security and public order which carries a heavy penalty was used to arrest and detain instead.

Sosma was created under Article 149 of the Federal Constitution specifically meant to prevent any action or threat by a substantial body of persons both inside and outside Malaysia:

(1) to inflict organised violence or to cause a substantial number of citizens to fear organised violence against persons or property;

(2) to incite disaffection against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong;

(3) to prejudice to public order or security in the Federation or any part thereof; or

(4) to bring about change by otherwise than lawful means, or any law established.

Matthias Chang is a lawyer who accompanied Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan to lodge a report alleging misconduct on the part of 1MDB to authorities in and outside Malaysia. This does not contravene the laws of any country and cannot be regarded as a threat to the peace and public order protected under Sosma.

In fact, the reports lodged by Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan are in line with the principles of democracy as well as fundamental freedoms guaranteed by any country that practices democracy.

Therefore, we stress that the arrests of Matthias Chang and Khairuddin Abu Hassan under Sosma are a form of abuse of the legal process by authorities and which are clearly in conflict with the purpose of Parliament passing the law.

It restricts the right and freedom of individuals to act legally in a country that upholds the supremacy of the Constitution and Rule of Law.

Furthermore, when the Prime Minister tabled the Sosma Bill in the Dewan Rakyat on April 16, 2012, he gave his assurance that every individual is "free to voice his or her opinion, criticise, support, have differing views or join any organisation". In fact, he even promised "no one will be punished merely for exercising their rights guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and the country's laws".

Based on this promise, the two citizens must be immediately released and the authorities must give an assurance or guarantee that no one else will be arrested under Sosma just for expressing their views, opinions and criticisms and taking action allowed by the Federal Constitution and the laws of the country.

Signed by:

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin

Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

Tan Sri Ong Tee Keat

Tan Sri Sanusi Junid