20 January 2003
KUALA LUMPUR (AP) –Police raided the offices of an online newspaper Monday that angered Malaysia’s governing party by publishing a letter critical of government affirmative action policies.
Steven Gan, the editor of Malaysiakini.com, told The Associated Press that police were dismantling 20 computers and seizing files from the online publication’s headquarters.
“This is definitely an attempt to shut down Malaysiakini,” Gan said. “They are taking all our computers, so we will definitely be offline for some time.”
There was no immediate comment from police.
Malaysiakini, which has won international awards for its coverage in a country where traditional media are kept in check by tough licensing laws, published a letter Jan. 9 criticising laws that favor the ethnic Malay Muslim majority.
Officials from the youth wing of the United Malays National Organization _ which champions Malay Muslim rights _ filed a police report Friday saying that the letter was seditious and likened the party to the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group in the United States.
Police on Monday demanded that Malaysiakini reveal the identity of the letter-writer, whose comments were published anonymously. Gan said that police began seizing computers when he refused.
“We will stand by our journalistic principles,” said Gan, who was ordered to appear at Kuala Lumpur police headquarters by Wednesday to give a statement. “We will not reveal the writer’s identity.”
UMNO competes with an Islamic fundamentalist party for the votes of Malay Muslims and has won the group privileges in housing, jobs, loans and education compared to the country’s large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.
The government, which includes junior partners from the smaller ethnic groups, contends that the laws are needed to help traditionally poor Malay Muslims and avoid a repeat of bloody Malay-Chinese racial riots in 1969.