The 11-day hunger strike of six ISA detainees, the latest 14  KMM arrests under ISA, the mainstream media blackout of news of hunger strike and four-day ban on all local media reporting on the MCA power struggle  further  disturbing evidence of new-found  Barisan Nasional arrogance and contempt for human rights in post-911 Malaysia


Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Saturday): The 11-day hunger strike by the six ISA reformasi activists, Mohamad Ezam Mohamad Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua Tian Chang, Saari Sungib, Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam, the solidarity hunger strike by their supporters outside Kamunting Detention Centre, the latest 14 arrests under the Internal Security Act for alleged connections with the Kumpulan Militant Malaysia (KMM) without the government having to furnish any evidence of their complicity in a court of law or at the bar of public opinion, the mainstream media blackout of news of the hunger strike and the four-day  ban by the Prime Ministerís Department imposed on all local media from reporting the MCA power struggle are further disturbing evidence of the new-found Barisan Nasional arrogance and contempt for human rights in post-911 Malaysia. 

The manifestation of such new-found Barisan Nasional arrogance and contempt for human rights in the final days of the first-term appointment of the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) which had been entrusted and empowered with the statutory  responsibility to protect and promote human rights in Malaysia has only served to accentuate the new crisis of human rights in post-911 Malaysia - heralding a new dark age for democracy in  the country. 

The Suhakam secretary Kamaruddin Mohamed Baria said on Wednesday that Suhakam  will conduct an inquiry into the hunger strike by the six ISA reformasi activists next week. 

Yesterday, Suhakam in a statement signed by commissioner Zainah Anwar expressed concern that the government continues to use the ISA to detain those it deemed to be a threat to national security and reiterated the Suhakam position that detention without trial constitutes a human rights violation and urged the police to charge those detained in an open court.

Will the positions taken by Kamaruddin and Zainah continue to represent the pledges and positions of Suhakam next week,  when a new series of appointments of Suhakam Commissioners  would be made, including the appointment of the new Suhakam Chairman? 

It has been reported that former Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman is the most  likely new Suhakam Chairman.  As Abu  Talib is noted for his over-zealous defence and use of the draconian ISA during  his tenure as Attorney-General, which marked the height of the tyranny of the ISA during the first decade of the Mahathir rule, is Abu Talib going to renounce his previous support for the ISA as Chairman of Suhakam or is the second-term Suhakam going to see a repudiation of its present  stand that the ISA  constitutes a gross human rights violation and should be repealed? 

The press blackouts, both on the ISA hunger-strike entering into its eleventh day and the four-day censorship by the Prime Ministerís Department of all local media reports on the MCA power struggle, are also very ominous coming two weeks before the World Press Freedom Day on May 3 - which has been proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly to mark the fundamental principles of press freedom and as  an occasion to inform the public of violations of the right to freedom of expression. 

On the advent of the 2002 World Press Freedom Day, the Barisan Nasional government is not showing greater respect for press freedom and the fundamental right of freedom of expression - but the very reverse, committing hitherto unheard-of violations of the freedoms of expression and the press.! 

It is probably because of such new-found arrogance of power and contempt for human rights in post-911 Malaysia that not a single Barisan Nasional Minister or leader had  deigned it important enough to express concern or interest despite worldwide concerns about the health and wellbeing of the six ISA reformasi activists with their hunger strike entering the eleventh day - and why the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had not even bothered to reply to my two urgent faxes in the past two days for permission for me to visit the six reformasi activists in Kamunting. 

Malaysians are entitled to ask as to when the leaders of the  Barisan Nasional parties, including both the Team A and Team B factions of MCA who are spending every minute of their waking moments to oust the opposite faction from power, will stop being mute, deaf and dumb about the 11-day hunger strike of the six ISA reformasi activists and their supporters and to take a stand on justice and human rights - or whether they are completely indifferent whether the six ISA detainees live or die in the Kamunting detention centre.

(20/4/2002)


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman