Tamil Malaysians hold placards, banners and a toy tiger during a demonstration outside the Batu Caves Temple near Kuala Lumpur on May 24, 2009. Nearly 5,000 ethnic Tamil Malaysians gathered at one of the country's iconic Hindu temples to protest acts of 'genocide' against Tamils in Sri Lanka following the end of hostilities there. (AFP photo)
Two Malaysian lawmakers are among several people charged with supporting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a defunct Sri Lankan terrorist group.
Ethnic Indian Melaka state government representatives G. Saminathan, 34, and P. Gunasekaran, 60, were charged on Oct. 29 under the Penal Code, which provides for a sentence ranging from life imprisonment to a fine and confiscation of property used in relation to the offense.
Saminathan was also charged with possessing items, believed to be video clips, connected to the LTTE in a cellphone on Oct. 10 when he was detained.
The accused nodded to indicate they understood the charges, which were read out in the presence of judge Elesabet Paya Wan, but no pleas were recorded.
The court set Dec. 16 for the case to be heard. Bail was denied and the accused were taken to Sungai Buloh Prison.
Deputy public prosecutor Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad, who led the prosecution with Mohd Izhanudin Alias, told reporters that the charges under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012 did not allow for bail and the court had no authority to make a decision.
The three accused were represented by five lawyers led by high-profile counsel Ramkarpal Singh, state news agency Bernama reported.
Only family members and dignitaries were allowed in the court for the proceedings and reporters were prevented from entering.
The two lawmakers from Democratic Action Party (DAP), which is part of the Pakatan Harapan alliance government led by Mahathir Mohamad, were charged alongside S. Chandru, 38, at the Sessions Court in Melaka.
In other courts in Selangor state, scrap metal dealer A. Kalaimughilan and Sundram Renggan Rengasamy, 52, were charged with possession of terrorism-related paraphernalia belonging to the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers.
Sundram Renggan, an English and physics teacher, was among 12 people detained by Malaysian police earlier this month.
The charges carry a maximum of seven years in jail or a fine. The offense is non-bailable under the provisions of the security law.
While able to retain their positions as elected representatives for the moment, the detained lawmakers will be automatically removed from office if they are sentenced to a minimum of 12 months’ jail or fined not less than 2,000 ringgit (US$480).
Election Commission chairman Azhar Azizan Harun said on Oct. 15 that an elected representative can only be dismissed from his post if he is charged, tried, found guilty, sentenced in court and, if there is an appeal, the whole judicial process is completed.
However, human rights lawyers pointed out that there was still a possibility of disqualification due to the lawmakers' absence from state assembly meetings.
“If they are absent for a number of sittings, their seat could be declared vacant," lawyer New Sin Yew told media, explaining that this would be likely, online news portal Malay Mail quoted him as saying.