Abdullah said: “I don’t want to see another black eye. We have had enough with one black eye … We don want to see two or three more.”
He said the detainees would be treated well and that they would not be “brutalised”.
Does this mean that it would be all right for the police to “brutalise” or maltreat the Reformasi Seven provided it is short of a “black-eye”?
In any event, how credible are official assurances that detainees would be “trerated well”?
Malaysians will never forget the shameful episode of Anwar Ibrahim’s “black-eye”, where the then Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor could give a public assurance on Sept. 24, 1998 that Anwar was "safe and sound", when at that very moment, Anwar was still sprawling in his cell left without medical attention for five days after being assaulted by Rahim Noor while blindfolded and handcuffed to within an inch of his life!
Malaysians are again reminded that while Anwar had undergone two long trials, convicted and serving two outrageously long sentences, Rahim Noor is still at large although he had been jailed for two months and fined RM2,000 after he pleaded guilty to voluntarily causing hurt to Anwar, with his appeal dragging out ad infinitum!
How can Abdullah ensure that what he said yesterday would not belong to this infamous category of meaningless “safe and sound” assurances?
Would Abdullah tender his resignation as Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister if it is subsequently established that the Reformasi Seven had been subject to maltreatment during the period of their ISA detention?
Since taking over the Home Ministry portfolio, Abdullah has declared his opposition to the use of ISA and publicly told the police to charge offenders under the laws of the land where the fundamental right to fair and open trial would be fully respected.
If it is now beyond Abdullah’s powers to stop to use of the ISA, and immediately release the Reformasi Seven, the least he should do as Home Minister is to ensure that the seven are allowed immediate access to their lawyers and family members which would be the surest way to minimise the possibility of their being “brutalised” or maltreated while under police custody.
There is nothing under the Internal Security Act which provides for the total isolation and solitary confinement of the ISA detainees during the first two to three weeks of their detention for purposes of police investigation, denying them all access to lawyers and family members.
The reason for such police action to deny ISA detainees all access to lawyers and family members is to cut the detainees totally from the outside world so that they could try to break them psychologically - and it is in this crucial psychological period where there had been recorded instances of physical abuse and torture of detainees.
Such police methods against ISA detainees come within the definition of “brutalisation” and maltreatment.
If Abdullah cannot ensure that the Reformasi Seven are allowed immediate access to lawyers and family members which is the only means to ensure that they are not “brutalised” or maltreated in any manner while under police custody, then his assurance that they would be treated well and that they would not be “brutalised” is not meaningful at all.