Call on Abdullah to release the reformasi five from ISA to assure Malaysians and the world that Malaysia’s fight against terrorism will not be at the expense of the rule of law, democracy and human rights
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Friday): DAP calls on Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to accept the recommendations of the Advisory Board and release the reformasi six, Keadilan party leaders Mohamad Ezam Mohamad Nor, Tian Chua, Saari Sungib, Lokman Noor Adam and Dr Badrulamin Bahron and malaysiakini columnist-cum-filmmaker Hishamuddin Rais from the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The Malaysiakini report today that the ISA Advisory Board, headed by former Anti-Corruption Agency director-general Ahmad Zaki and which reviewed ISA detentions, have decided to recommend their release following the Federal Court’s ruling on September 6 that the arrest and 60-day detention of the reformasi six under the ISA were mala fide, is an opportunity for Abdullah to assure Malaysians and the world that Malaysia’s fight against terrorism will not be at the expense of the rule of law, democracy and human rights.
Abdullah’s failure to comply with the Federal Court order to release the reformasi activists was a major blot on his human rights record and he should not compound it with a second act of dismissal of the recommendations of the Advisory Board for their release.
The reformasi activists are doubly victims, firstly of the undemocratic and draconian detention-without-trial ISA and secondly, of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States which created a world-wide frenzy which had been exploited by unscrupulous governments to justify greater human rights violations.
The reformasi activists would most likely have been released under the ISA if the Supreme Court judgment in their favour had been made before the September 11 terrorist attacks, as was the case with N. Gopalakrishnan and Abdul Ghani Haroon whose applications for habeas corpus were granted by Justice Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus in Shah Alam High Court on May 30, 2001 and who staved off police intentions to re-arrest them.
Gopalakrishnan and Ghani would have undergone a very different experience if their habeas corpus verdicts had been delivered after September 11 of the last year, which had witnessed a sea-change in the political environment locally as well as globally, affording the incumbent governments to alter gear from defensive to offensive positions on human rights violations and subversion of the rule of law.
An example of such a sea-change internationally is the change of policy of the Bush Administration to sell arms to Algeria to help it put down the Islamic rebellion which has cost more than 100,000 lives in the past ten years. Although the United States had previously been critical of Algeria’s human rights record which included village massacres to “exterminate anyone who supports the Islamists and not just terrorists” and was reluctant to arm Algiers, all this changed after 11 September 2001, with US Administration leaders publicly saying that “Washington has much to learn from Algeria on ways to fight terrorism”.
After the September 11 attacks, Algeria became a key partner in the fight against al-Qaeda as the Algerian insurgents are close allies of Osama bin Laden, and the Algerian military establishment which aborted the 1992 general election when the Islamic Salvation Front was expected to win by a landslide, now claims that they had been right all along when they started fighting the violent Islamists a decade ago.
The question is whether Malaysia wants to emulate Algeria. If so, then not only would the ISA Advisory Board’s recommendation for the release of the reformasi activists be ignored, their detention orders may be renewed for another two years on their expiry in the middle of next year.
Abdullah should take serious note of the complaint by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, in Helsinki two days ago that the U.S.-led "war on terror" was damaging human rights standards all over world. As Prime Ministers-in-waiting,
should remove Malaysia from such September 11 frenzy and set the country
firmly on the path to send out the important message that the war against
terrorism cannot be successfully waged at the expense of democracy, the rule
of law and human rights.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman