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A 26-year-old activist has been arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) tonight following a report she made accusing the police of abuse of power in yesterday’s controversial eviction of a squatter colony in Johor.
Cheng Lee Whee, a self-employed programmer who is a volunteer for human rights group Suaram, lodged the police report at the Permas Jaya police station in Johor Bharu at about 3pm yesterday.
The report was made in response to the forced eviction of squatters in Kampung Baru Plentong Tengah – a predominantly Malay village akin to Kuala Lumpur’s Kampung Baru – and the arrest of 27 individuals for attempting to stop the demolition of the settlement.
Cheng was summoned by inspector Azman Mustafa to the state police headquarters in Seri Alam at around 8pm so that her statement could be taken relating to her police report.
Four of her friends accompanied her to the police station, among them were Suaram Johor Bahru coordinator Nyam Kee Han, Parti Socialis Malaysia central committee member Choo Shinn Chei and Suaram volunteer See Siew Min. The three were arrested yesterday at the forced eviction.
At around 10.45pm, after Cheng had her statement recorded by the police, she was informed by Criminal Investigation Department chief DSP Mohd Nor Rasid that she had been arrested under section 28 of the ISA for “spreading false information”.
Section 28 of the ISA involves the dissemination of false reports.
According to the section, “Any person who, by word of mouth or in writing or in any newspaper, periodical, book, circular or other printed publication or by any other means spreads false reports or makes false statements likely to cause public alarm, shall be guilty of an offence.”
According to lawyers, section 28 does not empower the police to detain a suspect without trial. The suspect must be brought to court within 24 hours either to be charged or be further remanded to facilitate police investigation.
‘Police chief confirmed ISA arrest’
Cheng was later escorted to the Pasir Gudang police station where she is expected to be remanded tomorrow for further investigation.
DAP state assemblymen for Skudai, Dr Boo Cheng Hau, told Malaysiakini that he had spoken to Johor police chief Mokhtar Shariff as well as Seri Alam OCPD Supt Roslan Zainuddin by phone and both officers confirmed that Cheng had been held under ISA.
He called on the police to either charge Cheng or free her as soon as possible.
Attempts by Malaysiakini to contact Mokhtar and Roslan were unsuccessful.
Last year, the ISA was invoked in Johor against five individuals for allegedly spreading rumours through SMSes about racial clashes.