Suhakam  should stick to the April 2001 decision to call for the immediate repeal of ISA as it had been massively abused against legitimate political dissent and to propose instead  an anti-terrorism law to deal specifically with terrorism

Media Conference Statement
- after meeting the Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Kuala Lumpur,  Thursday)In my 45-minute meeting with the Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, we discussed wide-ranging issues about Suhakam and human rights in Malaysia.  

A primary focus of our discussion was the Internal Security Act (ISA). I expressed concern that Suhakam had altered its original stand on the ISA issued on 11th April 2001 as a fundamental human rights violation and calling for the immediate release of the reformasi activists, or that they should be charged and tried publicly for any offences against the law. 

However, on 24th May 2002, the second-term Suhakam made the major concession that while maintaining its position that detention without trial constitutes a human rights violation, it “also recognizes the duty of the state to maintain national security and to protect the people from violent criminal acts”, expressing the hope for the repeal of the ISA  “in the long term”.  

I told Abu Talib that Suhakam’s “in the long term” was so open-ended that it could be ad infinitum.  

I asked Suhakam to stick to the April 2001 decision to call for the immediate repeal of ISA as it had been massively abused against legitimate political dissent and to propose an anti-terrorism law instead to deal specifically with terrorism.


In the past four decades, the massive abuse of the ISA had damaged the civil and political rights of the people of Malaysia, and it had long outlived its original purpose to  deal with the communist armed uprising when it was enacted in 1960.


I conceded that after September 11 attacks in the United States, terrorism had become both an international and national problem which must be addressed frontally.


However, all elements of the civil society must be involved in the fight against terrorism. It is not a fight to be conducted by the police and army alone. Instead, it must be fought at the political level, at the economic and social level, and at the level of ideas.  But above all, it must be fought in a manner that respects human rights.  

I suggested that  Suhakam convene a conference on “Human Rights and Terrorism” to propose a law on anti-terrorism which would address the problem of terrorism while at the same time ensure that it would not be exploited or abused by the government to launch crackdowns on their political opponents or stifle legitimate dissent. 

On the Suhakam inquiry into the six  ISA reformasi activists, Mohamad Ezam Mohamad Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua Tian Chang, Saari Sungib, Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam next week, I expressed the general disappointment of the civil society at the narrowing of the scope of the probe into their conditions at the Kamunting Detention Camp when the inquiry should deal with the central issue of the human rights violations of their ISA detention.

I also suggested that Suhakam conduct a full  review into the  42-year history  of the ISA, particularly the rampant abuses of fundamental freedoms and undermining of political dissent through the abuse of  ISA, in line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established  in South Africa to probe  into the dark days of rampant human rights abuses in the years of apartheid.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman