The government should respond positively to Suhakam’s “concern” over the ISA crackdown, the Suhakam stand that the ISA arrests violate fundamental human rights and the Suhakam call for the immediate release of the seven detainees or their public trial if they have committed any offence.
The ISA crackdown is in fact “a public slap in the face” for Suhakam, which had agreed to accept the People’s 14th April Memorandum on human rights in the country at the Suhakam office on Saturday, as Police has swooped down on the key figures of the People’s 14th April Memorandum Committee, including its chairman Saari Hj Sungib and committee members Hishamuddin Rais and Tian Chua.
The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai has virtually accused the People’s 14th April Memorandum Committee as the centrepiece of the militant conspiracy plotting the violent overthrow of the government, and the IGP’s media statement yesterday seemed to contain an implied blame of Suhakam for “aiding and abetting” the resort to “unconstitutional” actions by agreeing to accept the People’s 14th April Memorandum on Saturday.
Norian Mai should state clearly whether the Police fully respects the right of Suhakam to receive the People’s 14th April Memorandum at the Suhakam office on Saturday and whether the Police is making any implication that Suhakam is “aiding and abetting” the militant conspiracy plotting the violent overthrow of the government.
The ISA crackdown is a great test of the credibility and authority of the year-long Suhakam. The Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Musa Hitam, should lead a Suhakam delegation to meet the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi over the ISA arrests as well as on the need for full police support and respect for Suhakam’s statutory responsibility to protect and promote human rights in Malaysia.
The statement by Abdullah as Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister yesterday that the arrests of the seven reformasi activists in the last two days were strictly due to their involvement in activities detrimental to public order and national security is most unfortunate and unfair.
This is because Abdullah’s statement tantamounts to a prejudgement that the seven are threats to public order and national security and should be detained under the Internal Security Act - which is a gross abuse and an unlawful exercise of power, as the Home Minister should only make such a decision when the police had completed investigations and made its recommendation whether there should be a formal order of detention under the ISA.
At present, the arrest of the seven reformasi activists is still under
Section 73(1) of the Internal Security Act 1960 which states:
“73(1). Any Police officer may without warrant arrest and detain pending enquiries any person in respect of whom he has reason to believe -
a. that there are grounds which would justify his detention under section 8; and
b. that he has acted or is about to act or is likely to act in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to maintenance of essential services therein or to the economic life thereof....
(3) Any person arrested under this section may be detained for a period not exceeding sixty days without an order of detention having been made in respect of him under section 8…”
Section 8 of the ISA reads:
“8. Power to order detention or restriction of persons.
(i) If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to the maintenance of essential services therein or the economic life thereof, he may make an order (hereinafter referred to as a detention order) directing that that person be detained for any period not exceeding two years."
This means that it is only on the expiry of the initial custodial ISA detention not exceeding 60 days, that the Home Minister has to decide whether a detainee should be formally detained under Section 8 of the ISA based on police investigations and recommendation - but in this case, before the end (or even before the proper start) of police investigations and recommendation under Section 73, Abdullah seems to have already decided that the seven reformasi activists would be detained under Section 8 of the ISA! This is most irregular, improper and downright unlawful and an abuse of Ministerial powers.
The media conference by the Inspector-General of Police yesterday must rank as one of the most bizarre and shameful events in the history of the Royal Malaysian Police where very serious allegations about a militant conspiracy to plot the violent overthrow of the elected government, spiced with “explosives including bombs and grenade launchers”, were made completely without any substantiation.
Right-thinking Malaysians as well as international observers are entitled to ask whether Norian Mai is concocting or narrating a “fairy tale” unless he could come out with full substantiation of his “tall story” - as it would be mind-boggling and inconceivable that the police has absolutely nothing in terms of hard evidence apart from heresay to back up its story of a militant conspiracy for the violent overthrow of the government.
Norian Mai said a secret group made up of 20 reformasi activists have been set up in Kuala Lumpur to realise the plan to topple the government and that they had held 12 meetings between Jan.6 and April 4, 2001.
The IGP should publicly name these “20 reformasi activists” who constitute the militant conspiracy for the violent overthrow of the government and be prepared for defamation suits if he could not substantiate such a serious and even heinous allegation against them.
The former IGP, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, gave a “black eye” to the reputation of the Malaysian police force when he assaulted a blind-folded and handcuffed Anwar Ibrahim in police custody, and Norian Mai risks giving the Malaysian police another “black eye” with the “fairy tale” of a militant conspiracy for the violent overthrow of the government unless he quickly comes out with hard evidence to convince a most skeptical nation and world.