KUALA LUMPUR: Human rights activist Kua Kia Soong has denounced the Pakatan Harapan government as a regime that is no less oppressive than the one it ousted in last May’s election.
Commenting on the government’s recent decision to retain laws that are often described as draconian, he said the excuses given were the same as those the public had heard when Barisan Nasional was in power.
Last week, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the government had decided to withdraw the moratorium on the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) and the Sedition Act following the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple riot in Subang Jaya on November 26.
On Monday, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said the decision was made out of concern for national security, public order and race relations. He said the government would use those laws only in exceptional cases.
Kua, who is the adviser for Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), noted that the Barisan Nasional government used to employ the same words to justify the laws.
He told FMT he believed PH was stymied by a lack of political will and the absence of a sound political ideology.
He alleged that none of the parties in the coalition could be described as progressive, but he also said the main reason for PH’s inability to institute promised reforms could be the control exerted on it by Dr Mahathir Mohamad as coalition leader and prime minister.
“I don’t know if Mahathir is fully convinced of the need to do away with detention without trial and the need to have other progressive reforms,” he said.
“This is one of the reasons why I didn’t expect much from the PH coalition when I heard that it would be led by Mahathir.
“He has not said sorry for what he did in the past. He didn’t say sorry to Anwar Ibrahim. He didn’t say sorry to those he incarcerated during Ops Lalang. What kind of guy is that? What can you expect from such a man?”
Kua, a former DAP member, was once detained under the Internal Security Act, a law providing for detention without trial that was abolished under the previous government. Critics have said the repeal was cosmetic, since people could still be jailed without trial under Poca, Pota and Sosma.
Kua noted that many people detained under the new laws were not prominent public figures, and said their families were undergoing great suffering for lack of public sympathy.
“Some of them are alleged to be terrorists, and they say some of them are gangsters. But who is to know?”
He said they should be charged in court or released, adding that there were enough provisions under the Penal Code to address the crimes they have allegedly committed.
Kua also said many of the reforms expected from PH could have been carried out within its first 100 days in power, and he gave examples like the calls for recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC), and abolition of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA).
“What is stopping them from recognising the UEC? So many graduates from schools are deprived of the opportunity of studying in public institutions and working with the civil service.
“As for the UUCA, even if they can’t change the law now, they could at least say that they allow the students to take part in political activities.
“Do they need more time? I don’t think so.”
He also criticised Mahathir’s choice of cabinet members, saying it illustrated his alleged penchant for trickery.
“Mahathir is a cunning fox,” he said. “He knows how to buy. He gave the finance minister’s post to Lim Guan Eng to keep the DAP happy so that the party cannot complain about anything else.
“And who is this Syed Saddiq, who never even held a job and is now a minister? And what does Mat Sabu know about defence?
“I see that there will be political problems when it is time for Anwar to become PM because we don’t know what games Mahathir is playing.”
He said it would make sense to give Anwar a cabinet post. “Isn’t that what the Port Dickson move was all about? Why is he collecting rubbish in Port Dickson?”
Kua also criticised PH for its alleged failure to keep its promise to govern with transparency, citing its refusal to publicise reports made by the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) and Institutional Reform Committee (IRC).
“If they don’t make the reports public, we won’t know if it was the CEP who advised Mahathir on a third national car,” he said. “We can hold them responsible for giving Mahathir the advice.”
He said Suaram was one of the organisations that contributed ideas for institutional reforms. “After all that we’ve done, you’re now telling us the reports cannot be made public? That’s unforgivable. So that’s why we have to give our own report to the public.”