Malaysian activists detained, VCDs & DVDs confiscated

by Andrew Garton January 08, 2011
An unprecedented attack on free speech in Malaysia is taking place in Sarawak. Last night land rights lawyer, Abun Sui Anyit, was held at Miri Airport by no less than 12 customs officers who confiscated several CDs containing programs by TV Sarawak Bebas and Radio Free Sarawak.

Abun Sui Anyit was released after being detained for 8 ½ hours at Miri Police Station. He had arrived from the capital, Kuching. He was not charged, but according to the Borneo Independent News Service Abun is being investigated under section 41 of the Malaysian Sedition Act for “inciting hatred”.

It didn't stop here. Back in Kuching the offices of Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) were raided by an unspecified number of special branch officers where they found and removed hundreds of VCDs and DVDs. The activist BK Ong, SADIA staff and SADIA Secretary General Nicholas Mujah were taken to Satok Police Station. Whilst the others weren't held, Nicholas Mujah was held and a statement taken before he was released on bail to appear in court on February 7 along with Abun Sui Anyit.

All up around 1300 VCDs and DVDs were taken, including 200 that Abun had been carrying.

What's happening in Sarawak?

Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo, is one of thirteen states of Malaysia, praised by former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, as a “vibrant democracy”. It's leadership, headed by Abdul Taib Mahmud, is turning Sarawak into not only a wasteland, but a paranoid police state protecting the interests of Taib's family companies ploughing into its natural resources.

Taib is a busy man. Not only is he Sarawak's Chief Minister, he's the state's Financial Minister and the Planning and Resource Management Minister too. Considered one of the wealthiest men in Southeast Asia, Taib has taken to collecting VCDs and DVDs fearing their use as a means to reach a public increasingly disenchanted with his thirty year reign as head of state.

In a part of the world where democracy is said to flourish loggers are known to carry rifles and patrol access to remote indigenous villages, so called “trouble-makers” at forest road blocks are arrested and beaten, journalists and advocacy group leaders, all Malaysian nationals are turned back at Sarawak's airports, people are disappeared and others are alleged to have been murdered.

This is barely the start of a story that does not begin politely, nor does it describe the values of a democratic state. Will it end badly? The chapters that would lead Sarawak's people through this murky business are in the hands of its authorities. In the meantime, turn to Radio Free Sarawak and TV Sarawak Bebas.

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