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 Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

To begin let me hasten to clarify that the above verse is not an ode to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE); it is part of a 1794 poem by William Blake which all students of my vintage had to memorize in our English Literature class. I’m just being cautious, mind you; having run afoul of the all-powerful fugitive preacher from India, I have to be careful that any reference I make to tigers is not equated with sympathy for the LTTE and result in another round of questioning by the police.

Blake’s poem came to mind for no apparent reason, perhaps because there seems to be no apparent reason behind the sudden surge in LTTE activity. It is certainly a little more than intriguing that a long-dead Sri Lankan terror organization would suddenly rise, phoenix-like from the ashes, in Malaysia of all places. Not in Sri Lanka (where it all began), not in Canada (which has the largest concentration of Sri Lankan Tamils outside of Sri Lanka) or in Tamil Nadu, but here in our very own backyard. Tigers are suddenly everywhere it seems.

Going by the spate of arrests, replete with dramatic photographs of heavily armed police commandos arresting LTTE “terror” suspects – photographs taken and distributed by the police themselves – I wouldn’t be surprised if the LTTE terror threat soon surpasses even that of Islamic state militants.

And who would have thought that the DAP – which has long been accused of being the last redoubt of the Malayan Communist Party, home to assorted Christian evangelists and Jewish agents bent on undermining the country – is also the spawning ground of wannabe LTTE tigers.

No wonder a whole gaggle of Ketuanan Melayu politicians and religious extremists is delirious with excitement and falling over each other to demand tough action against the party. And not content with the arrests thus far, they also want Penang Deputy Chief Minister P. Ramasamy detained as well. Now they are even demanding that the government table a white paper in parliament on the whole LTTE issue.

I suppose they will soon be calling for the police classify the DAP as a terrorist organization and ban it altogether – something these bigots have been dreaming about for years.

Their sudden concern about terrorism is also puzzling since they had nothing to say about all the other far worse Islamic state terrorism cases. Earlier this month, the police announced that they had thwarted 25 planned terrorist attacks by Islamic militants in the country since 2013, including “several large-scale strikes on Christian, Hindu and Buddhist houses of worship and entertainment outlets in the Klang Valley.” There were no calls for a white paper then.

Even now hundreds of Malaysian ISIS foot soldiers and supporters are being brought home but we don’t hear them demanding to know how the government plans to deal with some of these hardcore terrorists. It looks like they only get worked up when non-Muslims are involved. No wonder so many people are upset.

Leaving all that aside, however, the whole LTTE issue is bizarre enough to beg speculation about what is really going on, particularly when so many things don’t add up.

In the first place, there have been no reports anywhere of an LTTE revival. Indeed, the European Court of Justice ruled in 2017 that the LTTE should be removed from the EU’s terrorism list.

As well, both Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Special Branch Counter-Terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay insist that the police have “strong evidence” obtained by “intelligence operations carried out over a long period of time.” And yet, instead of charging them in open court, the 12 suspects are being held under the infamous Security Offenses and Special Measures Act (SOSMA).

SOSMA not only allows the police to detain suspects for up to 28 days; it also contains provisions which many human rights lawyers argue hinder a fair trial for those charged with security offenses. If others accused of terrorism related offences can be charged in court, why not these suspects?

Ayob also said that “if we don’t make a move now, we might be seeing something else happening although so far the group is just promoting and supporting the LTTE’s causes but let’s not forget the incident in 2016 where a Sri Lankan high commissioner was attacked at the airport.”

It is strange that Ayob should seek to link the attack on the high commissioner to local LTTE supporters when the then deputy home minister, Nur Jazlan Mohamed, said at the time that it was “an isolated incident” which had “nothing to do with terrorism.” Three of the suspects were eventually charged in court “with rioting, mischief and causing hurt,” not terrorism related charges.

I suppose we will all now have to wait to see if the police will be able to prove their case against the twelve suspects now in detention and charge them in court. Hopefully, it will happen sooner than later. Make no mistake: the whole credibility of the police force as well as the Pakatan Harapan government is now on the line.

In the meantime, the arrests under SOSMA, a law which has no place in any country that claims to be democratic and which has been abused before, should serve as a reminder of the unfinished Reformasi agenda that brought this government to power.

[Dennis Ignatius |Kuala Lumpur |16th October 2019]