Syed Hamid Albar, then home minister, had ordered the police to arrest Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng under the Internal Security Act in 2008, according to former police chief Musa Hassan in an interview with Free Malaysia Today.
He said he had scolded his deputy, Ismail Omar, for making the arrest and claims that Ismail (now the IGP) had wept and offered to resign.
Tan Hoon Cheng, a reporter with Sin Chew in Penang, was arrested in September 2008 after reporting on a speech by Umno divisional leader Ahmad Ismail who had said that Malaysian Chinese were “squatters” and did not deserve equal rights.
Hoon Cheng was arrested at about 8.30pm on Sept 12 at her home in Bukit Mertajam, sparking a loud public outcry and protests. She was released the next afternoon after being interrogated and held overnight at Penang police headquarters, and being driven to Ipoh and back.
Free Malaysia Today reported Musa Hassan as saying in an interview that the police had made the arrest in obedience to the then home minister Syed Hamid Albar. He was in hospital at the time for a heart bypass operation. He said he scolded his deputy Ismail Omar and the latter wept and offered to resign.
Syed Hamid had said at the time she had been arrested “for her own protection” and that police had acted on information of a threat on her life.
From Free Malaysia Today:
He said he told Ismail, who was acting IGP, to investigate the case under the Sedition Act and not to use the ISA to arrest anyone. He said he was upset at the turn of events and demanded an explanation from Ismail when he visited him at IJN.
“Then he started crying, saying that the minister gave the instructions. He told me he wanted to resign, saying things like ‘I want to resign, I don’t want to work anymore. “I said to him, ‘You shouldn’t be allowing yourself to be dictated to. I am in the hospital now, and you are Acting IGP.’ I told him ‘It’s stupid of you, wanting to resign. Next time, just don’t do it.’”
Asked if he tried to confront Syed Hamid, Musa said he could not because he was bedridden.
“But of course the girl was later released. But it was wrong. Using ISA didn’t make sense to me. If you think any seditious statement was made, then you have the law to investigate, right?”
During the controversy, Syed Hamid told the press the arrest was a police decision and that he had not interfered.
More recently, during the Umno annual general assembly, Syed Hamid denied Musa’s allegation that home ministers were among the politicians who regularly attempted to interfere with police investigations.
Asked to comment on this, Musa told FMT: “Well he can deny it, but Ismail told me at that time that he was directed.”