All You Need To Know About Tun M & BN Leaders' Press Conference On SOSMA "Abuse"

Much was talked about in the press conference that was held on Monday morning, 12 October, at Putrajaya.

Cover image via Astro Awani

In a press conference held earlier today, former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir - alongside several Barisan Nasional (BN) veterans - teamed up to condemn the charges brought upon 2 individuals under the anti-terrorism Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA)

Joining Tun M during the press conference, which was held in Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya, were UMNO deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, UMNO vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, former UMNO secretary-general Tan Sri Sanusi Junid and former MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat.

Muhyiddin, Razaleigh and Dr Mahathir have all stood up as critics of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Muhyiddin’s opposing views on the state investment fund was what caused him to be dropped in the July 28 Cabinet reshuffle alongside Shafie.

For context, former Batu Kawan UMNO vice-chief Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan and his lawyer, Matthias Chang were charged under SOSMA today, 12 October, for allegedly attempting to sabotage country's economy

Khairuddin and Chang were charged today, 12 October, in the magistrate's court with attempting to sabotage the Malaysian economy and the country's financial and banking system.

They are accused of committing the offence in France, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore, between June 28 and August 26 this year‎.

Khairuddin was arrested after making several reports overseas, including in Singapore, Switzerland, France and Hong Kong against 1MDB.

On 18 September, Khairuddin was arrested by the police about 7.30pm at his Mont Kiara residence, a few days before he was scheduled to meet Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents in America.

On 23 September, Khairuddin was re-arrested at the Kuala Lumpur High Court under SOSMA for acts of sabotage.

His lawyer Chang, meanwhile was detained on 8 October after visiting Khairuddin at the Dang Wangi police station.

In a prepared statement, which was also co-signed by former MCA chief Tun Dr. Ling Liong Sik, the group maintained that the duo's actions were not unlawful, adding that their arrest is an abuse of legal power to silence government critics as well as a violation of the law's purpose

“The use of this new law is meant to be for terrorists but it is clear that the government is using this law for all kinds of things, especially against criticism of government and so they are defining sabotage according to their own will and needs without adhering to the purpose of laws,” said Dr. Mahathir.

They also demanded for Khairuddin and Chang to be released immediately, reminding PM Najib about his promise that SOSMA would not take away the rakyat's freedom to express their views and opinions

“Based on the Prime Minister’s promise on April 16, 2012, the two citizens must be released immediately and the authorities must provide a guarantee that no one else will be arrested under the Act merely for expressing their views, opinions, criticisms or take part in any action which is authorized by the Constitution and laws of the country,” read a statement by the group and co-signed by another former MCA president, Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, who was not present at the press conference.

Read the full statement (in Malay) here.

Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, who is also the former Minister of Rural and Regional Development and a part of the Cabinet who approved SOSMA, said, "It was specific to terrorism and guarantees were given in Parliament that it won’t be used for political reasons."

Veteran UMNO leader Tan Sri Sanusi Junid expressed his surprise at the authorities' stand that removing the Prime Minister is a bigger terrorist threat than toppling the government

"If you regard toppling the prime minister is terroristic threat, then toppling the government is more terroristic threat, then you should go out and arrest all opposition.

"It seems toppling the government is not a crime, but toppling the prime minister is," he said in denouncing the detention of former Umno leader Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan and Matthias Chang under Sosma.

Describing the duo's detention as "draconian" and a "3rd world act", Gua Musang MP Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said that this is an inaccurate interpretation of SOSMA and urged the government to reconsider detaining citizens without representation

Image via The Star Online

We feel we have gone over the era of ISA when we talk about becoming a developed country, but we do not seem to have matured when we go back to this Third World kind of legislation where we can detain people without representation," he said.

“It is wrong. The government must reconsider. I have come here because Tun (Mahathir) had invited me to talk about the situation and put our arguments forward."

Tengku Razaleigh added that a lot of people had asked him to make a stand to the government about the abuse of the law.

This is not the spirit SOSMA was presented to Parliament. We were under the understanding that this was not like the ISA (Internal Security Act). But the way it is being interpreted is not right,” he said, referring to the colonial-era law on preventive detention that has since been repealed.

Tengku Razaleigh added that UMNO's current system has failed its grassroots members whose voices have been drowned out by the upper leadership, adding that there should be a new system allowing members to have proper representation

"The party system has failed. Now it seems to be dominated by the voices of the leaders rather than grassroots level, there’s a big difference so because of that, I think it has failed," he said.

“It seemed the ideas are coming from upstairs down, rather than downstairs up."

Former Deputy PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin advised UMNO members to not be afraid to speak up against the party leadership if it is the right things to do, explaining that he knew many at the grassroots level are concerned but are not willing to express their views

“When I go down to the ground, the feeling among the grassroots is obvious. I have met with party leaders at all levels. But UMNO members, perhaps out of respect or due to our Malay culture, we tend to suppress our feelings," he explained.

I ask them to be open and express their feelings. Do not be fearful of consequences if you are doing the right thing,” said Muhyiddin, at a press conference with several Barisan Nasional veterans at the Perdana Leadership Foundation here. He added that members should use “the right platforms” to voice their dissatisfaction, including the upcoming Umno general assembly.

When asked whether he was worried Umno would take disciplinary action against him for speaking up, Muhyiddin said that it was part and parcel of being a leader.

I believe in the principle of justice. Although I am still holding a post in the party, that does not stop me from expressing my opinions with what’s going on in the party because it involves the public.

“So I am not worried because this is an effort to fight for the people’s rights. Was I wrong for doing this? The party never said we should support it blindly because the support should be based on law and religion," he said.

During the press conference, Mahathir also remarked on the "climate of fear" which has discouraged people from expressing their views, even if it's the truth, for fear of being detained by the authorities

We see a climate of fear among the people. They have a lot of concerns but they say they have no avenues for them to express their views. People with evidence say the same thing. When they say the truth, they are subjected to pressures such as detention,” he added.

“The government is not functioning according to the laws of the country but beyond the laws. That’s why we have come here to make a statement that we are against the abuse of laws of this country and other activities of government which are questionable," he said.

We hope that the people will understand why we have taken this stand and I hope that the people will also express their objections to the government arresting and detaining people without any legal basis for their action,” he added.

Mahathir added that he is prepared to be arrested and prosecuted under SOSMA as well.

"According to their the Government's interpretation of ‘sabotage of government’, anyone who says anything against the Prime Minister is about to topple the Government," he said.

"But toppling the Government is a right of the people in a democracy," he added.

"So they may take action against me or anyone of us, but somebody has to take the risk to voice our disquiet, anger, and feeling that the government is not looking after the interests of this country. Somebody must say it. So we have taken it upon ourselves to say it."

Meanwhile, former MCA president Tan Sri Dato' Ong Tee Keat expressed his disappointment that MCA is still rallying their support for PM Najib despite accusations of corruption and power abuse

“If you ask me my views, of course I would handle the situation differently as compared to what the current leaders are doing. If need be, we (MCA) need to hold a referrendum within the party or community (to find out) whether or not we should stay within the (Barisan Nasional) coalition,” he said.

Ong, a former Cabinet Minister, said the reason for his comments was because of the growing dissatisfaction among the Chinese community with the current crop of MCA leaders and how they were handling current issues affecting the country.

“Today I’m here not to represent MCA. By and large, the MCA grassroots, being part of the community, have a lot of grouses and (feel) uneasiness over the situation in the country and also their future.

Mahathir rehashed his call for a parliamentary vote of no-confidence against Najib, saying that it's a normal practice around the world and that it's the only way to remove a man who is abusing his position

“Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was pushed by his own party and there was no outcry that that was not right or against the law," he explained.

However, Tengku Razaleigh said that a no-confidence motion may not even materialise, as it is dependent on the Parliament speaker's prerogative

By parliamentary convention, government business has to be completed before any motions can be deliberated.

"We were told the speaker has the right to reject any effort like that because it is not stated in the standing orders. So any efforts to have such a motion that is not allowed by the speaker will be futile if we want to bring it," he said.

“Seeing that such a move would be stopped from the very beginning, it would be futile to pursue this course of action. But there are other ways to approach this and we will talk in a different forum," he added.

Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 has even launched a campaign to urge Malaysians to petition their respective MPs to call for a no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister:

Yet, Najib remains steadfast in staying on as Prime Minister:

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