Catholic bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing said the latest arrests under the Sedition Act were for him "an eerie reminder of Operation Lalang" - the October 1987 detentions under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) of more than 100 opposition and social activists.

NONE"I hope I'm wrong but these arrests are an unnerving reminder that bad law is unjust and encourages evil enforcement," said the head of the Catholic Church in the Melaka-Johor diocese who as a priest in Kuala Lumpur in 1987 was informed by the Special Branch then that he was on the list of religious activists - the others were French priest Pierre Gautier and La Salle Brother Anthony Rogers - marked for arrest.

Anthony Rogers, then an aide to Gautier in the Office of Human Development in the Catholic archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, was taken in under the ISA dragnet that year but Jesuit-trained Paul Tan and Gautier were left unscathed.

Yesterday, several social and political activists were either charged under the Sedition Act or detained for investigation under the law.

This flurry of prosecutorial and investigative activity under the Sedition Act has raised concerns that the public is about to witness a repeat of the infamous ‘Operation Lalang'.

Antiquated law

"That was one of the darkest chapters of our history," said Bishop Paul, in reference to the period when several score political and social activists were detained under the ISA and held in Kamunting for periods from a few months to a few years.

"The Sedition Act is an antiquated law that should, like the ISA, have been consigned to the dustbin of history," opined the prelate in remarks to Malaysiakini.

azlan"I think we should have left that part of our history well and truly behind but it appears that the forces of darkness and forces of light are in contention in this country once again and right now, judging from the trend of the last few days, one is gaining the upper hand over the other," asserted Bishop Paul.

"Heaven forbid that this should come to pass," he remarked.

"It would be most unfortunate if the forces for retrogression gain the upper hand for that would mean that this country will slide back into the quagmire from which the forces of progress have struggled to free us," he declared.

The bishop reiterated that Christian teaching required its followers to uphold justice, promote equality and oppose the violation of human rights.