DAP calls for establishment of an all-party Parliamentary Committee to propose penal reforms as Malaysia has violated international minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners

Media Conference  Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): DAP calls for the establishment of an all-party Parliamentary Committee to propose penal reforms as Malaysia has violated international minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners in the country's prisons.

Malaysia should be more serious in our international commitments and obligations, especially as a member of the United Nations, as we are now a non-permanent member on the Security Council.

For instance, the Malaysian penal system has not complied with the "Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners" adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 45/111 of 14 December 1990.

If Malaysia's penal system meets the minimum international standards, whether in terms of food, prison cell, imprisonment conditions or medical attention, there would not be the penal scandal of  a very healthy young Member of Parliament losing 10 kg and developing multiple ailments five months after incarceration at the Kajang Prison.

Guan Eng is now in his sixth month of imprisonment.  He entered Kajang Prison as a  very healthy young Member of Parliament on August 25 last year and very soon, he suffered severe back aches as a result of having to sleep on the cold hard cement floor, without any bedsheet whatsoever.

Guan Eng started having serious back pains on the third day in jail, by the fourth day, 29th August 1998,  his back pain was so excruciating that he could hardly sleep that night, tossing and turning  the whole night.  But he could not go to the prison clinic the next day because it was a Saturday and the clinic doctor was off, and as Monday was August 31 and National Day, he had to wait three  days until Tuesday, Sept. 1, 1999 for his first visit to the hospital doctor.

His first  visit to the prison clinic was memorable. He was checked by the hospital assistant, and Guan Eng winced slightly  with pain when the hospital assistant touched his backbone, and when he went to the part which hurt most, Guan Eng jerked in pain.

Guan Eng never had migraine but is now having splitting headaches. He is also suffering from sinus problem.  All these ailments ensure that Guan Eng cannot have proper sleep.

In five months in Kajang Prison, Guan Eng  lost 10 kg or  22 pounds -  just like Anwar Ibrahim who has lost the same weight, although in a shorter period of time.

Guan Eng should receive specialist care and treatment and should be hospitalised either at the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital or the Universiti Hospital, but specialist attention has been denied him by the authorities.
For more than five-and-a-half  months, the three young children of Guan Eng have not been able to touch and embrace their father.  This surely is not the mark of a caring society.

There is an urgent need for prison reforms for even prisoners have the right to be treated as human beings.

For a start, all prisoners in the country should be allowed to touch and embrace their young  children.  This is a mark as to whether the government is really serious about promoting family values.

Malaysians should demand wide-ranging prison reforms, starting immediately on the three aspects of firstly, ensuring that Malaysian prison conditions conform with minimum international standards; secondly, promoting family values and a caring society by allowing prisoners to touch and embrace their young children; and thirdly, give priority to rehabilitation programmes to ensure that criminals are reformed to become good and useful citizens on their release, as there is virtually no proper rehabilitation programme worth talking about under the present penal system.

The Director-General of Prisons, Datuk Omar Mohamad Dan should be required to submit a report to the next meeting of Parliament in April as to how the penal system has conformed with minimum international standards for the treatment of prisoners in the prisons in the country.

Clearly, the following minimum standards in the United Nations  "Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners 1990" have not been complied by Malaysia's prisons:


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong