Malaysiakini’s assistant editor Susan Loone was questioned by police for almost nine hours last night before being released on bail. She had been arrested for an interview with an executive councillor on Sunday night, in which he was quoted as saying he had been treated like a criminal.
Police have taken objection to that quotation but so far have not issued any denial.
Penang CPO Abdul Rahim Hanafi merely spoke about police procedures, then reminded journalists to follow ethics and not twist facts. However, he did not go beyond making that innuendo, and did not say specifically whether any facts in the Malaysiakini report had been twisted.
He also said that whether Phee Boon Poh was happy or not with the treatment he had received was the executive councillor’s personal view. “But I feel my force had given the best treatment,” he said.
Malaysiakini editor Steven Gan said Malaysiakini was standing by its story and confirmed that Phee had not denied the story or the quotation.
The CPO had also issued the standard police response that reporters should not write about “sensitive” issues — but there is wide divergence in Malaysian society itself about what is “sensitive”, and civil society has condemned the use of the Sedition Act to silence critics of the ruling government.
Former Umno MP Saifuddin Abdullah said last night Malaysians should urge the prime minister to repeal the Sedition Act, and the International Commission of Jurists condemned the current sedition dragnet as an attack on free speech.
Susan was released on police bail at 11.45pm last night. She told Himanshu Bhatt of Malaysian Insider that she was weary from the lengthy questioning, but added that the police treated her kindly and professionally.
“It was tiring but I somewhat expected it as I heard about the long hours from suspects I had interviewed,” she said. “I am happy to be released as I can celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday on Monday,” she added.
Her mobile phone has been seized by police. Susan had reported that she had interviewed executive councillor Phee Boon Poh by phone while he was in custody.
Penang CPO Abdul Rahim Hanafi had said after the report was published that Phee, Susan and Malaysiakini were being investigated under the Sedition Act. Phee was also questioned last night at George Town police headquarters, but for less than an hour.
He was not arrested for this (but was arrested on Sunday regarding the volunteer squad), and has not made any comment so far.
Malaysiakini editor Steven Gan said this morning that Malaysiakini was standing by its story and confirmed that Phee had not denied the story or the quotation. He also confirmed that no one else from Malaysiakini had been questioned so far. Malaysiakini chief executive Premesh Chandra, contacted earlier, had also said Malaysiakini was standing by the story and its assistant editor.
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On Monday, Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng also offered to provide legal support for Susan Loone, after the Malay rights group Perkasa had said they would engage a lawyer to sue Malaysiakini and Susan Loone on behalf of the police.
Tanjung MP Ng Wei Aik was also arrested yesterday for his involvement in the Penang volunteer squad, Malaysian Insider reported. Federal and state police contend the squad is an illegal organisation. Ng was released on police bail at 6.45pm. He said two statements were taken from him, and that he is being investigated under the Societies Act.
Malasian Insider said Ng told reporters “I was treated politely by the police and I feel satisfied,” he said.He said he was queried on the support the state gave to PPS and how new members were vetted. “We provided a list (of new members) to police, but there was no reply from the police,” he said.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said he was unsure how many other leaders would be hauled up by police. “The state government will cooperate with police, to make Penang safe, but stands firm against the bullying tactics of the IGP.”