Sunday, 9 November 2008

Malaysian blogger activists keep spotlight on ISA evil

Malaysia Today editor and radical blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin has been released from ISA detention. It's a remarkable outcome for this fear figure of the Malaysian elite. It seems an unexpected victory - and intriguing decision by a usually-cowed Malaysian judiciary. But it proves the vital lesson that intelligent mobilisation and information can have rewarding results.

Activist blogger and journalist Anil Netto has written copious daily - often minute-based - updates on RPK's incarceration, release and the ongoing anti-ISA vigils, including the brutal police clampdown on a peaceful rakyat presence in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya.

As Netto's popular dispatches show, this is a blog-dissidence that's serving to switch-on and inform a new generation of concerned and active citizens. It also continues to discomfort and alarm the elite.

The latest backlash from the Malaysian state comes in considerable response to this extraordinary network of blogger-led news and dissent. Indeed, in a media-savvy age where bloggers have rewritten the rules, such sites are proving deeply worrying for an establishment ever-used to issuing its comfortable propaganda via the standard press and electronic media.

And with voluminous traffic at Malaysia Today and collective Malaysian blogosphere now surpassing much of the Malaysian media, public rejection of the Internal Security Act is gaining similar ground.

The ISA remains the draconian instrument par excellence among a catalogue of coercive laws enacted by the British during the Emergency (1948-60) to counter the Malayan Communist Party. Under the enduring pretext of 'preventive detention', notes Aliran's Francis Loh, the ISA:
"has subsequently been used to detain political opponents across the whole political spectrum: alleged Communists and Marxists, trade unionists, peasant leaders, student activists, Islamists, church workers, so-called racial chauvinists, opposition party leaders, NGO workers, and other dissidents, not to mention government members of parliament, secret society members, identity card and passport racketeers, counterfeiters and smugglers of illegal aliens."
In short, it's the dragnet law of a 'national security' state designed to criminalise and curtail lawful political dissent.

Another victim of this ISA round-up is the resilient blogger and film maker Sheih "Kickdefella". In a recent Aliran edition, "Kickdefella" tells of his four day lock-up in Khota Bharu and Dang Wangi police stations, a time in which he felt a spiritual completeness and compassion for his police jailers, all of whom, it seems, saw in him a man of honour, innocence and integrity.

Such is the growing public esteem, even within the state apparatus, felt towards those prepared to sacrifice their liberty in challenging the ISA.

Parliamentarian Teresa Kok and Sin Chew Daily News reporter Tan Hoon Cheng have also been emboldened by their harrowing experiences of arrest and questioning, resolving, on release, to intensify their opposition to this catch-all law.

Sixty six detainees currently languish in the infamous Kamunting detention facility - past 'home' to many notable politicians, activists and academics such as S. Husin Ali, Kua Kia Soong and, in his early radical days, Anwar Ibrahim himself.

Now released - though, ever-aware of looming re-detention - RPK has rejoined the anti-ISA caravan and 'keyboard struggle' alongside Netto and a host of dedicated others.

Nothing so free and truthful could be imagined coming from the standard media. Indeed, it's a tickling paradox that all the corporate-political resources of a dutiful mainstream media are being subverted by these 'lowly blog-journos'.

With unfiltered, qualitative information coming via freely-accessible sites, how, one wonders, does the state and its media monolith respond? Well, as we've seen, by locking-up the bloggers or/and dismissing them as an 'unprofessional caste'.

Yet, as gathering demands for an end to the hated ISA and radical blog-traffic intensify, those reactions are proving to be well behind the curve.

As with past purges on Malaysiakini and other unsettling portals, further and more severe closure of servers and sites can always be expected.

Yet, with the many political and logistical difficulties posed by a mass assault on blogger activism, the outlook is still encouraging.

More power to your fingertips!

John