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Inconsistencies criticised

SINCE Selangor exco member and Seputeh Member of Parliament Teresa Kok was released from detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) on 19 Sept 2008, the Chinese media has increased its debate on the law that allows for detention without trial. 

On 22 Sept, Low Chee Cheong’s column in the Oriental Daily, titled Papaya Threatening National Security, recalled an article written by activist-cum-commentator Hishamuddin Rais nine years ago on his personal experience under ISA detention. 

Low said one day, Hishamuddin was brought to Kuala Lumpur to attend his trial for illegal assembly. When he returned to the Kamunting detention camp, he found a papaya tree he had planted was destroyed.

“Hishamuddin was very angry and immediately protested, asking the officials to explain why they destroyed his plant. The officials could not answer. At last, a high-ranking officer explained that it was because the papaya tree threatened national security,” said Low.

(© Rafael Fontoura /

Double standards

Low said he despised the double standards shown by some politicians in supporting the release of certain ISA detainees. 

“For instance, [they] only supported (Sin Chew Daily reporter) Tan Hoon Cheng, and even tried to claim credit when she was released.  But they kept their mouth shut about (Malaysia Today editor) Raja Petra Kamarudin and Teresa Kok. Their ‘selective’ support is no different from the ‘selective’ detention of dissidents,” said Low.

Low said even though some people praised the Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians who were critical of the government’s action and who supported Tan’s release, these politicians were just opportunists.

“They are fully aware that public opinion is against the ISA, hence they are not afraid to act so boldly. But when they don’t support Raja Petra and Kok, as well as many others who are still detained, isn’t that evidence [that they are opportunist]?” said Low.

Melamine scare

The issue of tainted milk from China was also highlighted in the Chinese media between 19 and 25 Sept.

Sin Chew Daily‘s 24 Sept editorial titled Strengthen the Enforcement on Food Safety said the issue of melamine-tainted milk from China has exposed the government’s negligence in monitoring the safety of imported foods, and in managing public health.

The paper said the health ministry did not conduct tests on Chinese dairy products soon enough after the issue was discovered two weeks ago. The editorial noted that that the health ministry’s announcement about food from China was also based on the test results of the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, hence demonstrating that the Malaysian authorities were slow in responding.

The daily argued that some food manufacturers had announced their products were safe for consumption even before the health ministry had conducted any tests. The ministry has yet to endorse these announcements; the editorial argued that if this task isn’t well managed, the public cannot be certain that any food ban would also be effectively enforced.

It said the removal of banned products from the shelves in Singapore was much faster than in Malaysia, and that the Malaysian government has much to learn from Singapore’s efficiency.

It also said Malaysia could have learnt from Europe, where action was taken to strengthen food safety rules and implement a crisis management system after the issues of mad cow disease and tainted chocolate were highlighted.

“If we always fall behind other countries, it would not only deprive consumers of the right to information, but it would also create dissatisfaction towards the government. 

“The issue reflects that food safety management standards have not been properly set. It shows that the government’s capabilities need to be strengthened,” said the editorial.

Rising crime

The Chinese media also highlighted the robbery-cum-murder of Thor Joo Lee, wife of former Penang state assemblyperson for Bukit Tambun Lai Chew Hock; and the robbery case involving Datin Chang Lee Lee, wife of former Penang exco and Pulau Tikus assemblyperson Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan, within 24 hours of each other. in its 24 Sept editorial titled Long-Term Measure to Restore Public Safety criticised the government’s half-hearted measures in dealing with the rising crime rate.

The paper said before the March 2008 general election, crime reduction was listed in both the BN’s and opposition front’s manifestoes. However, after the elections, the focus turned instead to power transitions, government takeovers, party elections and other matters, and addressing crime took a back seat.

It said the government announced an all-out war against crime in early 2007, but the announcement seemed to be merely rhetoric, and did not have any specific strategy. Members of the public are still haunted by serious crime, and are forced to be cautious wherever they are.

The online news site also criticised the government’s failure to set up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), and the postponement of the IPCMC replacement plan.

The editorial argued that the government should not put the blame on the police alone, because some crime-related issues were a result of weak policies such as in the sectors of education and foreign workers.

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