Police detain two Malaysian opposition activists as election contest heats up

15 Feb 2008
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Police detained two opposition activists who protested outside the national palace Friday to voice fears that the March 8 general elections would be rigged by the government.
Tian Chua, the information chief of the People’s Justice Party, was taken into custody when he tried to address about 30 people after handing palace officials a protest note. An unidentified supporter was also detained, said opposition official Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi.
The note urged Malaysia’s constitutional monarch to look into the opposition parties’ concerns that the elections would be rigged by the government, a claim regularly made before elections.
«This is a bad sign that the authorities are trying to block us from speaking,» Syed Azman said. «We are worried that this will become a dirty election.
Both men were taken to a police station in Kuala Lumpur’s Brickfields district, but it was not immediately clear why they had been detained. Police in Brickfields declined to comment.
Some independent election observers have backed opposition claims that polls in Malaysia are steered in favor of the ruling coalition through gerrymandering of constituencies, manipulation of postal votes, use of bogus voters and vote buying.
The government has repeatedly denied any irregularities, saying electoral rolls have been cleaned up and the polling system is transparent.
The arrests came as politicians on both sides began unofficially campaigning after the Election Commission announced the polling date on Thursday.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak visited northeastern Kelantan, the only one of Malaysia’s 13 states ruled by the opposition, and pledged big improvements if the National Front coalition wrests control of Kelantan from the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party.
«If the National Front is given the mandate, the people of Kelantan would not have to migrate to other states in search of jobs, as is the case now,» the national news agency Bernama quoted Najib as saying in a speech to more than 3,000 people.
The National Front, led by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is expected to easily win the elections, but with a smaller parliamentary majority because of public concerns over inflation, alleged corruption, crime and racial and religious tensions.