A little over a month later, on 9th May, Uthaya and the other two were also released.
Manoharan and Vasantharao signed papers upon their release, attaching conditions to the same. Uthaya refused to sign anything. In fact, he refused to leave Kamunting if his release was to be subject to conditions. Finally, the authorities at Kamunting had to forcibly remove Uthaya from Kamunting, without him having signed any papers.
A year and a half earlier, just before the five were detained under the ISA, the authorities unleashed news that Hindraf had links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), against a backdrop of calls, since the Hindraf rally of 25th November, that the ISA be used on the Hindraf leaders.
“Of late there have been indications that Hindraf is trying to seek support and help from terrorist groups” , Malaysiakini reported IGP Musa as saying, on 6th December, 2007.
The next day, Prof Ramasamy, the present Deputy Chief Minister, who had served on the Constitutional Affairs Committee of LTTE to draft proposals for an interim administration in Sri Lanka’s northeast in 2003, rubbished the IGP’s assertions.
“Don’t bring terrorism into this, because there is no link. There is no LTTE involvement. Look at the Indian problem and find a way to resolve it. That’s all. What does this have to do with the LTTE? Nothing. By trying to link them with terrorism, they’re trying to demonise Hindraf. It’s a well known smear campaign to sidestep resolving a problem. It’s utter nonsense, and there’s no basis for it. There is no LTTE support. LTTE itself needs support. What support can they give us? They themselves are appealing to the Tamil diaspora in Europe and US. We don’t need their support. This is a Malaysian problem” , Malaysiakini reported Ramasamy as saying.
On 8th December, Pak lah was reported as saying of the Hindraf leaders and the reports of their terrorist links, that the “ISA is an option. I will decide when the time is right. If they are deemed as a threat to national security we will know what to do”.
5 days later, all 5 were detained under the ISA and were sent off to Kamunting pursuant to two-year detention orders signed by Pak lah.
It would appear from a Malaysiakini report dated 21st December, 2007 that of the 5, only Uthaya had stated in his detention order as a ground for his detention, his having links with the LTTE.
Now, interestingly, on the day that Ganabatirau and Kengadharan were released, the man who signed their detention orders, Pak Lah was quoted as saying of Najib’s decision to release them that “It is good decision. A good move. I am sure the time has come for them to be released, so he released them”.
The time had come to release them?
They had been rehabilitated?
Had the time then also come to release Uthaya because he had been rehabilitated, had severed all ties with the LTTE and was no longer a threat to national security, if, indeed, ever he was?
Not a word on this from the authorities.
No appearing live on TV, like Abdullah Ahmad in 1975, or Al-Arqam’s Ashaari in 1994, to recant and repent publicly.
And, to-date, not a shred of evidence to substantiate their claim of terrorist links.
The threat to national security magically disappeared and, to quote Pak Lah, the time had come. It would be a good move.
This last week, the spectre of terrorism and national security under threat has reared its ugly face again.
This time, it’s militant elements in our universities, so the story goes.
On 15th June, Muhyiddin was reported by Malaysiakini as saying that ‘university and institutions of higher learning will be summoned to meet with the police over reports that the terror group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) is drawing young campus students into their movement’ and that ‘the government will allow the police to handle this matter and take all necessary action against the group if the allegations were true’.
The same report had it that the IGP had said earlier that JI was luring students into its movement via ceramahs that touch on the jihad (holy struggle) and inviting them to join militants abroad.
In the days that followed these statements by the IGP and the DPM, the mainstream media was ablaze with news of how our university students are at serious risk of being manipulated and lured into terrorism by those who may have infiltrated their ranks or, worse yet, the lecturing staff of our universities.
On 17th June, The Straits Times carried news of a terror plot to blow up places of worship in Penang and Selangor that was foiled in January this year by the arrest of 9 foreigners and a local. The 9 have since been deported.
The same day, another report in The New Straits Times carried Najib’s call to the authorities to step up their efforts to prevent extremist ideology from infiltrating the nations’ campuses, adding that intelligence reports would be collected and analysed to ensure that such groups would not be able to influence the students and other people.
The same report alluded to an earlier re3port that police were monitoring students at two universities believed to be spreading their religious ideology to other students.
Interestingly, I had received information round about this time that university students who were suspected of being involved in recent by-elections were under close surveillence by the police authorities.
Were the authorities looking at a way to clamp down on what many see as an increased activism amongst student bodies and movements? Were they looking to justify maintaining the strictures of the University And University Colleges Act, 1976, in particular section 15(5)(a), now under challenge in the Kuala Lumpur High Court?
Were we seeing the ‘smear campaign’ that Prof Ramasamy spoke of unfolding again?
On 18th June, The New Straits Times now carried a report that the ‘infiltration of terror groups into local universities is only the tip of the iceberg’, that the ‘al-Qaeda-backed group in the country has spread its tentacles into mosques and several non-governmental organisations’ and that the ‘group was trying to recruit more members, especially in Penang and Selangor, where it had plans to blow up places of worship in the two states’.
Another report in The New Straits Times of the same day, perhaps, gave a glimpse of what is to come, reporting the formation of a special committee headed by the Higher Education Minister and comprising representatives of the universities and police, to curb the infiltration of extremists into local universities. Minister Khaled Nordin was reported as saying that whilst the problem had not reached the “critical level” yet, swift action was needed to ensure local universities did not become a breeding ground for extremists.
The next day, The New Straits Times reported that there would be tighter security at places of worship, naming the Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang and the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Devasthanam temple in Batu Caves as the places of worship that had been targetted by the JI, as previously reported.
A report in The News Straits Times of 20th June laid bare that university students were not the only target of the authorities. It now was clear that the teaching staff at the local universities might also soon feel the heat.
Not surprising, really, given what I hear from students about the encouragement they receive from tutors and lecturers to pursue their activist work.
Yesterday, APW reported Najib as insisting that Islamic militants posed a “real national threat” after many in opposition accused the government of playing up the arrests of nine foreign suspects as a political diversion, and then issued a warning to us.
“If people do not want to believe in such threats, they will regret it later when terror strikes” , Najib warned.
The problem is one of credibility.
No one believes the government anymore.
On just about anything.
I certainly never believed the yarn about Hindraf or Uthaya having links with the LTTE.
And I find it hard to believe that UMNO was not in any way howsoever connected with the burning of the churches in early January.
So the only terror strikes that I will be looking out for will be thst which UMNO and its cohorts may try to engineer to strike fear in us.
The immediate question on my mind is where is all this ‘terrorist smear campaigning’ leading up to?
Are we looking at a foundation being laid for an Ops Lalang repeat?
If so, how far will the net be cast?
More importantly, how will the rest of civil society react?