KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 5 — National laureate Datuk A. Samad Said today defended the right to fly the criticised “Sang Saka Malaya” flag as a liberty afforded to all, after the act briefly cost him his freedom yesterday.
A Merdeka Eve incident involving the pre-Independence flag led to his controversial arrest at his home shortly after midnight yesterday, but the laureate today insisted that his detention and the sedition claim levelled against him were unjust.
“Setiap orang berhak bertindak mengikut pegangannya sendiri. Soal siapa benar siapa salah adalah soal yang lain ((Everyone has the right to act according to his or her belief. The question of who is right or wrong is a separate matter),” A. Samad, or Pak Samad as he is popular known as, told The Malay Mail Online in a text message.
A Samad, who is also co-chairman of polls reform group Bersih, however, refused to state if he had actually raised the flag or that he was arrested for the said reason.
"The answer is a secret. You will find out in court".
But the poet confirmed that he had been arrested and questioned in relation to the pre-Independence flag incident.
"Yes, among others, it is about the flag," he said.
Samad was picked up by the police from his house in Bangsar here at about 12.30am and brought to the Dang Wangi district police headquarters yesterday.
The co-chairman of polls reform group Bersih was said to have been questioned for more than an hour and was released around 2.30am.
“He was arrested abt 1230 last nite-brought to ipd dang wangi n was questioned under s.4 Sedition act & section 505 penal code in relation to Sang Saka-was released abt 230am. both Eric Paulsen and I represented him,” his lawyer Latheefa Koya told The Malay Mail Online in a text message.
Two activists were also detained yesterday in relation to the pre-independence flag.
Prior to his arrest, the police claimed it was on the “hunt” for A Samad while Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz blasted the poet and urged him to voluntarily turn himself in.
On Tuesday state news agency Bernama had reported Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar as urging A. Samad to surrender to help facilitate their investigation over the incident.
Khalid had also accused Samad of evading the police, an allegation he dismissed.
"No, I was not in hiding. I was at home all the time," he said.
Samad's arrest sparked an uproar among netizens who accused the police of mistreatment.
Apart from Samad, student activist Adam Adli Abdul Halim and activist Hishamuddin Rais over the same August 30 incident last night but have since released the duo.
The Sang Saka Malaya flag allegedly unfurled on August 30 this year is a two-striped red-and-white flag with 12 yellow stars arranged in three rows in the top left corner.
It was used by the first Malay party, Kesatuan Melayu Malaya (KMM) formed in 1938, that had fought against the colonial British for the country’s independence.
This is the second time in two years where authorities have taken action under the Sedition Act 1948, on those caught raising the Sang Saka Malaya flag.
Last September, the police arrested two youths for allegedly flying the Sang Saka Malaya flag during the countdown to the 55th National Day on August 30.
The Sang Saka Malaya flag at the heart of last year's controversy is also a two-striped red-and-white flag, but it has a crescent moon and an 11-pointed star in the top left corner instead.