(Petaling Jaya, Monday): The
new Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, has been making wishy-washy
statements about the Internal Security Act since taking up his appointment last
asked about his position on the Internal Security Act after chairing the
first Suhakam meeting on Friday, Abu Talib said there were two aspects to the
matter – the legality/validity of the ISA as opposed to the principle of
detention without trial.
said: “We will look at it
very closely. It is the function of Suhakam to look at all the laws and make our
recommendations, and if the Government thinks fit, it can accept or
said the commission only discussed
the ISA briefly at the meeting and many views were expressed.
an interview with Berita Minggu yesterday, Abu Talib pointedly avoided stating a
position on the ISA, and when asked his views on the call by the first Suhakam
to review the ISA, he gave another wishy-washy reply, saying: “Saya perlu
membaca laporan itu, beri saya peluang untuk membacanya terlebih dulu.”
under the chairmanship of Tan Sri Musa Hitam, had taken the position that the
Internal Security Act is “a fundamental human
rights violation” with its detention-without-trial
Talib should adhere to the earlier Suhakam decision
that detention-without-trial ISA is a “fundamental
human rights violation” unless
he can get two-thirds of Suhakam
Commissioners to rescind it or he
should step down as Suhakam Chairman on such an important point of principle.
7 (4) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 provides that members of the Commission “shall
use their best endeavours to arrive at all decisions of the meeting by consensus
failing which the decision by a two-thirds majority of the members present shall
made a public statement on April 11, 2001 expressing "deep regrets"
over the detention under the Internal Security Act of seven reformasi activists – and the six who are still in
detention after more than a year are
Ezam Mohamad Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua Tian Chang, Saari Sungib, Badrulamin
Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam.
a statement after a special meeting following the arrests, Suhakam said that the
arrests under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention
without trial, violated fundamental human rights and called for their immediate
release. It said that if the detainees had committed any offence, they should be
charged and tried in an open court.
the statement, Suhakam said there were initially signals that the government was
"slowly but surely being
sensitized to human rights issues and is taking concrete
steps to ensure that its concern for human rights is translated into
action." It said the formation
of Suhakam a year earlier was proof
of the trend, adding that it was against this backdrop that it “expressed deep
concern over the present arrests”.
there is nothing in the Human Rights Commission Act 1999 to prevent Suhakam from
reversing its earlier decisions, new Suhakam commissioners, including the
new Suhakam Chairman, should respect and abide by previous Suhakam
decisions unless they are reversed subsequently in formal decisions by two-third
majority of the Commissioners.
if Abu Talib personally supports the ISA, he is bound by the Suhakam decision of
11th April 2001 that the ISA is a “fundamental human rights
violation” unless he can get a two-third majority support to reverse the April
11, 2001 decision – i.e. at least nine votes in the 13-member Suhakam.
all the five new commissioners appointed to Suhakam – four former civil
servants and one current civil servant – all support the reversal of
Suhakam’s “411” decision? Out
of the seven second-term Commissioners, will they all now repudiate their
decision last year that the ISA is a “fundamental human rights violation”?
that as it may, until and unless Abu Talib can get the new Suhakam to formally,
through two-thirds majority vote, to rescind the Suhakam decision of April 11,
2001 that the ISA is a “fundamental human rights violation”, he must adhere
to it or resign as Suhakam Chairman.
Abu Talib must respect and adhere to and implement without any delay
another Suhakam decision made earlier this month – the holding of a
public inquiry into the ISA detention of the
reformasi six currently serving their term at the Kamunting detention