Two Malaysian lawmakers from a party in the country’s governing coalition have been arrested for alleged links to a Sri Lankan militant organisation commonly known as the Tamil Tigers.
Assemblymen G. Saminathan from the state of Malacca and P. Gunasekaran of Negeri Sembilan were arrested on Thursday, confirmed Thomas Su, a member of the central executive committee in the predominantly-Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP), which the duo also belong to.
Malaysian media reported that the pair, along with five others including an unnamed ethnic Indian NGO leader, were being investigated under security laws for links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), allegedly due to a gathering they attended last year.
Police anti-terrorism chief Ayob Khan on Thursday said officers had been monitoring the seven men since November, and that both assemblymen had been actively supportive of the LTTE.
The others nabbed included a 28-year-old scrap dealer who organised pro-LTTE events and assaulted a Sri Lankan diplomat some years ago, an insurance agent suspected of plotting an attack on the Sri Lankan embassy, and a taxi driver in league with the scrap dealer.
Another DAP politician, Charles Santiago, questioned why the two assemblymen had been arrested given that “even in Sri Lanka, the movement does not exist”. He said the LTTE were “freedom fighters”.
Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war ended 10 years ago, but many in former Tamil capital still search for missing family
“This group was disbanded some 10 years ago. There is no network in Malaysia and there is no attempt to raise funds in the country. For me personally, I feel police are wasting their time with these arrests,” he was reported as saying when quizzed on the sidelines of a parliamentary meeting on Thursday.
Labelled a terrorist organisation by more than 30 nations including Malaysia, the United States and India, the Tamil Tigers have been considered inactive for the last 10 years following the killing of their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in 2009.
Founded in Sri Lanka in 1976, the LTTE fought for an independent Tamil state in the country’s 26-year civil war, which was sparked by ethnopolitical tensions between the majority Sinhalese population and minority Sri Lankan Tamils.
Malaysia is home to a sizeable ethnic Sri Lankan Tamil minority, mostly brought over during the British colonial era.
DAP Secretary General Lim Guan Eng threw his support behind the two assemblymen, maintaining that they were innocent.
“Their involvement in the DAP so far has shown no indication that the two were involved in any activities that departed from the party’s stand of moderation, non-violence and peaceful resolution,” he said in a statement, adding that the party would provide the duo with legal counsel.
“The DAP hopes that both our two wakil rakyats [elected representatives] will take their present predicament as a challenge, with resilience and faith, that truth shall not only be made known and prevail, but also set them free.”
The two were being held under Malaysia’s Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, which allows for 28 days of detention.
Last year, another DAP man – Penang state’s second deputy chief minister P. Ramasamy – was called in by police to give a statement on alleged links with the LTTE.
Ramasamy, a former lecturer, had reportedly been involved in peace negotiations between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government.
This article Malaysian lawmakers arrested over alleged ties to Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers first appeared on South China Morning Post