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More Arrests; Malays Cancel Processions

November 3, 1987

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Police arrested two more politicians and Malays were forced to cancel traditional Moslem processions to avoid Malay-Chinese racial clashes, officials said today.

Tan Seng Giaw, a member of the opposition Democratic Action Party in the Parliament, was arrested at his home late Monday, said a party spokesman who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sixteen party members, including 10 in Parliament and party leader Lim Kit Siang, have been arrested, the spokesman said. The party has 14 other members remaining in the 177-member Parliament.

Tham Seng Hung, a party deputy youth leader of the Malaysian Chinese Association, voluntarily surrendered at a police station Monday night after learning he was on the list of those police wanted to detain, said a party spokesman who declined to be identified.

The party is the second most powerful member of the governing National Front coalition of 13 parties.

The latest arrests bring to 93 the number of people arrested since the crackdown began one week ago under the Internal Security Act that allows those arrested to be held without trial.

The government said it invoked the act because it feared violence between predominantly Moslem Malays, who form a majority, and ethnic Chinese.

Others detained in the sweep of arrests include two members of Parliament from the governing National Front Coalition of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, environmentalists, church workers, Moslems preachers and workers of social justice groups.

Of Malaysia’s population of 16.5 million people, 55 percent are Malays, who are mostly Moslem, 37 percent are Chinese, who are mainly Buddhist or Christian, and most of the rest are Indians who are largely Hindu. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Malays were forced to cancel their annual street processions to celebrate the prophet Mohammed’s birthday Wednesday.

In a special address to Parliament last Wednesday, Mahathir banned all rallies and processions. He said the ban and the arrests under the Internal Security Act were necessary because Chinese and Malay politicians and other groups raised racial tension by debating the appointment of non-Mandarin- speaking teachers to Chinese schools.

Mahathir said the arrests were necessary to prevent race riots similar to those of 1969, which left more than 500 dead.

Traditionally, the king and the prime minister lead thousands of Moslems in processions following prayers at the national mosque and the sultans or rulers of the country’s 13 states lead processions in the state capitals.

Moslem leaders said this year all prayers and celebrations would be held indoors at mosques.

In the crackdown, Mahathir also has withdrawn the publishing permits of three newspapers, including the English-language daily Star, and said the papers contributed to racial tension.

The International Federation of Journalists, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, sent a protest to Mahathir on Monday criticizing the ban on the newspapers and protesting the arrests without trial.

Update hourly