Protestors disrupt Malaysian meeting over security law

GEORGETOWN, November 21, 2010 (AFP) - More than 50 supporters of Malaysia's tough internal security law Sunday stormed a meeting of civic groups opposed to the controversial legislation, event organisers said.

Protestors took to the stage at the meeting in northern Penang state, before speakers could begin discussions on the Internal Security Act (ISA) -- a law decried by its opponents as "a political tool of oppression."

The ISA is a relic of the British colonial era which allows for indefinite detention without trial, prompting human rights groups to campaign for its abolition.

Several protesters, who were drawn mainly from the youth wing of the ruling government coalition, slapped and hit the forum's moderators, according to participants.

"The ISA is used to chase away traitors," said protest leader Abdul Ghani Mohammad Jiman, as his supporters cheered in the background.

"Without the law, there would be bombings and killings everywhere. The ISA is not for ordinary citizens but for those who have squandered away the rights of others," he added.

Activist Hishamuddin Rais, who was formerly detained under the ISA, later invited Abdul Ghani to address the forum.

"Everyone should respect each other's rights to freedom of speech," Hishamuddin said.

"I urge those who have not done so to register as voters immediately, so you can decide the future of this country," he added.

The security law has been used against suspected terrorists as well as government opponents with rights groups saying there are currently 16 individuals being held under the ISA in Malaysia.

Last August, police detained 589 people after using tear gas and water cannon to disperse more than 15,000 people calling for the abolition of the ISA. Prime Minister Najib Razak has pledged to review the legislation.