(Penang, Monday): For the past six months, DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, had to sprawl on the cement floor or stand against the wall to read or write in his cell in Kajang Prison.
This is why I say that the Malaysian prison system fails to comply with the minimum international standards for the treatment of prisoners.
Malaysia is a tropical country where the availability of timber is no problem whatsoever. Is it too much to expect that every cell in the 22 prisons in the country would have tables and chairs, especially if the government is serious in wanting to transform Malaysia into an information and knowledge society.
Surely the Director-General of Prisons, Datuk Omar Mohamad Dan, who
have attended many international conferences on prisons and penal reforms,
is aware of the minimum international standards for the treatment
of prisoners, as for instance the United Nations "Basic Principles
for the Treatment of Prisoners 1990" which stipulates:
1) All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.
2) The responsibility of prisons for the custody of prisoners and for the protection of society against crime shall be discharged in keeping with a State's other social objectives and its fundamental responsibilities for promoting the well-being and development of all members of society.
3) Except for those limitations that are demonstrably necessitated by the fact of incarceration, all prisoners shall retain the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as such other rights as are set out in other United Nations covenants.
4) All prisoners shall have the right to take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality.
Can Malaysia claim that the 27,000 prisoners in the 22 prisons in the country are treated “with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings”, their “human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” retained and “the full development of the human personality” permitted when the prisoners have the sprawl on the cement floor or stand up against the wall to read or write?
The United Nations "Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners
1990" stipulates that prisoners “shall have access to the health services
available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of
their legal situation” and if this minimum international standard had been
complied with, Guan Eng would not be suffering from multiple ailments in
prison, probably wrecking his back for life, having splitting headaches,
high fevers and sinus problems causing breathing difficulties - or lost
10 kg in five months.
Omar Dan owes the people and nation a full and satisfactory explanation why he had allowed the penal system in the country to lag so far behind the minimum international standards for the treatment of prisoners, and I hope he would be ready to present a professional paper on the Malaysian prison conditions and necessary penal reforms at the meeting of political parties, NGOs and concerned Malaysians on prison reforms which I am convening in Parliament House on March 3.