Call on Rais Yatim to move an immediate amendment to ISA to fully restore judicial review and the rule of law  to prevent police and Ministerial abuses of power

Media Comment
- at the Kuala Lumpur High Court  after the rejection of  habeas corpus application by five reformasi activists for release under the  Internal Security Act:
Lim Kit Siang

(Kuala Lumpur, Wednesday): The High Court decision this morning to reject the habeas corpus application of the Reformasi Five, Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor,  Tian Chua,   Saari Sungib, Raja Petra Raja Kamaruddin and Hishamuddin Rais for release under the Internal Security Act (ISA)  is most disappointing.

The time has come for Parliament to intervene to restore full judicial review of the exercise of executive powers not only under the ISA but for  all other laws as the ouster of judicial review to prevent and check  abuses of powers by the executive is repugnant to the rule law and antithetical to constitutional and international human rights principles and declarations.

I call on the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim, to take immediate action to move an immediate amendment to ISA to fully restore judicial review and the rule of law to prevent police and Ministerial abuses of power in the infamous detention-without-trial law.

Dr. Rais should be pressing for the abolition of the ISA as he had once publicly advocated, but as this will be asking too much from him as he wants to continue as a Minister in the present administration, the least he should do is to get Cabinet approval for the restoration of judicial review under the ISA which was the case until 1988.

In his book, “Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia”, Dr. Rais had given an account of how the Internal Security Act was amended, assented and gazetted into law within seven short days in July 1988 just to frustrate my habeas corpus application for my release and to declare my second ISA detention under the Operation Lalang unlawful.

This is from Dr. Rais’s book:

“Lim’s habeas corpus application was scheduled for hearing on 13th July, 1988. The amendment was passed, despite vehement opposition by opposition members on 9th July 1988. It was rushed through the Senate, the second chamber that is filled entirely by nominated pro-government members, within a day of special session and became law on 14th July 1988.  Lim would have succeeded in his habeas corpus application of 13th July 1988 if it had not been for the court’s curious decision to allow a postponement which had been ardently requested by the Federal Counsel who was obviously detailed by higher authorities to ask for this adjournment and who cited as his main reason for the request the inability of the Home Minister to file his affidavit on time on account of his busy schedule.  The underlying reason for this move was clear: it was for the purpose of delaying the application until 14 July 1988, i.e. until the coming into force of Act A705. When the High Court re-sat to hear the application on 14th July 1988, the judge declared:

“‘However, in passing, I wish to state that had it not been for Act 705, the detention of the applicant in Kuala Lumpur before he was formally detained at the detention centre on 31 December 1987 would have been illegal.’

“On the same day the Deputy Home Minister stated that ‘the amendments have nothing to do with anyone. It is not because we want to victimise Lim Kit Siang or other individuals that we have the amendments. The changes are necessary…that is all.’  With that statement the whole country was expected to be satisfied.”

As Dr. Rais wrote, by way of the further amendment of the ISA in 1989, “judicial review in whatever form was disallowed” as “there are hardly any more loopholes to be challenged”.

In view of the disappointing decision of the Kuala Lumpur High Court in the habeas corpus application of the five current ISA detainees, is Rais prepared to propose an immediate amendment in the current meeting of Parliament to fully restore judicial review under the ISA to prevent Ministerial and police abuses of power under it - as existed before 1988?


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman