Malaysian authorities have used a draconian security law to arrest a human rights activist who accused police of abusing their power, an opposition party said Saturday.
Cheng Lee Whee, a volunteer for the Malaysian rights group Suaram, was detained late Friday when she went to a police headquarters in southern Johor state to explain a complaint she recently filed, the People’s Justice Party said on its Malay-language Web site.
Police informed Cheng’s companions that she was being held under the Internal Security Act, which is invoked against people regarded as threats to national security, the report said.
The act generally allows indefinite imprisonment without trial, but Cheng was held under a provision that requires police to obtain a court order for her detention within 24 hours.
Police officials familiar with the case could not immediately be contacted.
Cheng reportedly lodged a police complaint earlier this week accusing authorities of abusing their power while evicting 300 families from an illegal settlement in Johor on Wednesday. Police arrested more than 20 people who sought to halt the demolition of homes.
Cheng’s arrest comes amid mounting calls by opposition groups, lawyers and rights activists to abolish the Internal Security Act. The government insists the act remains needed to safeguard peace and stability.
Malaysia’s law minister, however, resigned in protest last month after authorities detained a political blogger, an opposition lawmaker and a journalist under the Internal Security Act. The politician and the journalist have since been freed.
The law is a holdover from British colonial days when it was used against communist insurgents. Independent Malaysia’s postcolonial government has kept it in the statute books and about 60 people are detained without trial under the law. They include alleged Islamic militants and leaders of an ethnic Indian activist group accused inciting racial hatred.
Malaysia arrests activist who accused police of power abuse