Suhakam commissioner Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin has said that the inquiry will be a closed one to accommodate witnesses who wish to remain anonymous and matters pertaining to national security would be kept confidential although the results of the inquiry would be made public.
That there are witnesses who might wish to remain anonymous and that there are matters pertaining national security are not excuses or reasons enough for Suhakam to conduct a closed inquiry - as there are many aspects of the inquiry which are not affected by these two considerations, such as how the ISA arrests were conducted, the detention during the first 60-day under police custody and the current condition in Kamunting detention centre.
The statement by the Suhakam commissioner Mehrun Siraj last month that Malaysia has reached a stage where the people need “hard cold facts” and that “the authorities cannot simply arrest people saying that they are a ‘threat to national security’ and expect people to accept that” deserves fully endorsement, particularly by the Suhakam - and this must be reflected not only by Suhakam inquiries but also by the nature of the inquiries.
This is the strongest reason why the Suhakam inquiry into the ISA detentions should be a public one, except where witnesses wish to remain anonymous or where the government can convince it that national security is involved.
Although Section 14 (1) (e) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 gives powers to Suhakam to “admit or exclude the public from such inquiry or any part thereof”, these powers should be exercised sparingly or not at all.