In October this year, the Malaysian police arrested 12 persons for their alleged links with the outlawed Sri Lankan Terrorist organisation, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Swarajya had reported that one Senthamizh Seeman, leader of Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK), which is a minor party in Tamil Nadu, is being probed by Malaysia for his links with the LTTE. Seeman, as he is popularly known, has visited Malaysia often in the recent past.
The Malaysian police investigation into these alleged LTTE links is now being viewed as a move to silence people and organisations critical of the Mahathir Mohammed government's decision to protect the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) founder, Zakir Naik.
The IRF founder is facing charges of provoking communal disharmony and inciting terror activities in India. Zakir Naik has taken refuge in Malaysia.
Malaysia is unwilling to deport him back to New Delhi or help in India’s probe into activities of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its supporters in the country.
Among the dozen arrested by the Malaysian police now are two lawmakers -- P Gunasekaran, member of the Seremban Jaya Assembly, and G Saminathan, member of the Gadek Assembly.
The 12 persons have been charged under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) that attracts either life imprisonment or a maximum of 30 years besides the forfeiture of any property used or intended to be used for the offence.
Saminathan faces an additional charge of possessing items used for terrorist acts or connected to the banned organisation. If found guilty under these charges, it would lead to an additional seven years of imprisonment.
The wife of one of the arrested has told the media that her relative has done nothing illegal or anti-national and has been made to look like a terrorist with the use of SOSMA.
Member of Malaysian Parliament, Charles Santiago, fears that the arrest of Gunasekaran and Saminathan for alleged links with the LTTE could be in retaliation to criticism of Zakir Naik.
Santiago has found fault with the timing of the arrest on 10 October just ahead of the 2020 Malaysian Budget being presented in their Parliament.
The arrests had shifted the discussion to SOSMA instead of the Budget, which is far more important, he told Free Malaysia Today website.
Santiago said the arrests were a sort of warning to Malaysia’s Democratic Action Party (DAP), which is centre-left. Both the arrested legislators belong to the DAP.
The Malaysian member of Parliament, who has been vocal in his criticism of the Malaysian government’s handling of the Zakir Naik issue, is of the view that the Malaysian police charges lack proper evidence.
Penang Deputy Chief Minister Dr P Ramasamy, who mediated in Sri Lanka on the Tamils issue in 2003, has alleged that some parties were trying to link him with the LTTE as part of efforts to silence critics of Zakir Naik.
Malaysian columnist, S Thayaparan, says that the LTTE investigation by Malaysia seems to be a strategy to create a counter-narrative centred around Hindu phobia.
The amusing aspect of Malaysia’s reported approach towards LTTE is that they consider it as a ‘Hindu’ terrorist organisation. Malaysian Hindus complain that the Mahathir government has whipped up Hinduphobia and Tamilphobia through these investigations.
Allegations that the DAP is being targeted for its criticism of the Malaysian government’s handling of Zakir Naik issue seem to be valid going by the actions of the IRF founder’s lawyer slapping legal notices on three DAP members, including Santiago and Ramasamy.
Zakir Naik has filed a defamation suit in a Malaysian court, charging the three with ridiculing and portraying him as a threat to Malaysia’s security. Santiago has already rejected Naik’s demand to apologise.
The charges that the Malaysian government has raised the LTTE bogey to counter criticism against its support for the Zakir Nair have to be viewed in the context of concerns raised by Malaysians against the IRF founder’s provocative speeches.
Malaysia’s support to Zakir Naik strained its relations with India. The Zakir Naik saga could lead to the ISIS capitalizing on the perception that Islam is under threat in Malaysia, say critics.
The LTTE angle coming into play against Zakir Naik critics was on the cards after PAS (Parti Islam Se Malaysia or Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party) charged the critics of double standards in August this year, alleging that they were defending the LTTE.
For now, the SOSMA or LTTE link cases are in Malaysian courts. The accused seem to have won the first round with the Malaysian High Court allowing legislator Saminathan to apply for bail.
Under SOSMA, a person can be detained without trial. The judge who allowed Saminathan to move for bail ruled that SOSMA provisions were unconstitutional as they allowed the executive to override the judiciary.
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