MALAYSIAN police seized DVDs used by the opposition to campaign for upcoming special elections, officials said on Monday, heightening fears of a crackdown on political dissent.
The April 7 balloting to fill three legislative seats is being fiercely contested because the results will be considered a barometer of public support for the incoming prime minister and other newly elected ruling party leaders.
The National Front coalition government and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s three-party People’s Alliance launched campaigning Sunday for the by-elections, which will be held in three states where lawmakers recently died or resigned.
Police seized 30 DVDs at an opposition campaign rally and briefly detained an opposition official late Sunday in northern Perak state, said Ngeh Koo Ham, a Perak opposition lawmaker.
Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said the action was ‘the latest example of the increasing intolerance toward fundamental liberties like freedom of speech, thought and expression in Najib’s Malaysia’. The DVD showed clips of opposition lawmakers being barred from holding a meeting at the Perak state legislature after the National Front wrested control of the state administration from the People’s Alliance.
District police chief Azisman Alias denied any political motivation, saying the government’s film censorship board has not approved the DVDs for public distribution.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is scheduled to become prime minister before the end of the week, has dismissed opposition allegations that he is clamping down on dissent. Over the past week, authorities shut down two opposition newspapers and used tear gas to break up a large opposition rally.
Opposition officials claim the moves are meant to prevent them from further eroding the National Front’s support. The Front retained power with less than its longtime two-thirds parliamentary majority in national polls a year ago and lost two subsequent by-elections. — AP
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