(Ipoh, Monday): In response to the European Parliament
resolution last Thursday calling on Malaysia to
repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA) as it was being used to crush
political dissent, the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the ISA “is not an Act that is used
to arrest members of opposition parties for their political activities, and
therefore we have no plans to repeal it".
is trying to mislead Malaysia and the world as I can testify that in both my ISA
detentions the first time for 17 months in 1969 and the second time for 18
months under the 1987 Operation Lalang swoop, I was detained not because I posed
any threat to the national security but purely because of my legitimate
have no doubt that if a Royal Commission of Inquiry is held, there will be a
long queue of former ISA detainees who are prepared to come forward to give
testimony of their detention not because they constituted any threat to the
national security but solely because of their legitimate political activities or
dissent – including all
the other five DAP MPs who were served with formal detention orders under
Operation Lalang, namely Karpal Singh, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, Lim Guan Eng, V. David
and Lau Dak Kee. (P. Patto, another DAP MP detained under Operation Lalang, has
Abdullah believes in what he said, that the ISA is not a political tool against
the opposition and legitimate dissent, then let his claim be tested by a
comprehensive Suhakam inquiry into the ISA detention of the six reformasi
Ezam Mohamad Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua Tian Chang,
Saari Sungib, Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam as to whether their detentions without trial constitute a fundamental violation of human rights and the latest use of the ISA to crush political dissent.
Tomorrow, Suhakam will be starting its inquiry into ISA detainees in Kamunting
Detention Centre which will be an acid test whether
Suhakam has retreated to a narrow restrictive interpretation of its powers or
whether it stands firm and square on its statutory remit to protect and promote
The three-member Suhakam inquiry, to be headed by Suhakam Deputy Chairman Tan Sri Harun Hashim together with Prof Mohd Hamdan Adnan and Asiah Abu Samah, starts a three-day hearing into the conditions of the six ISA reformasi activists currently detained at the Kamunting detention camp on
In my 80-minute meeting with the Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman in Kuala Lumpur last Thursday, I expressed the general disappointment of the civil society at the narrowing of the scope of the Suhakam probe into the detention conditions of the six ISA reformasi activists when the inquiry should deal with the central issue of the human rights violations of their ISA detention.
Abu Talib held that Suhakam is bound by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 which defined "human rights" as referring to the fundamental liberties enshrined in Part II of the Federal Constitution, which allowed for preventive detention laws.
I pointed out Section 4(4) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 which states that "For the purpose of this Act, regard shall be had to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the extent that it is not inconsistent with the Federal Constitution", maintaining that while preventive detention laws are provided for under the Constitution, it does not mean that Suhakam is prohibited from inquiring into the human rights violations of ISA or from discharging its overarching responsibility to promote and protect human rights in calling for the repeal of the ISA.
Otherwise, Suhakam would have acted ultra vires when it decided at an emergency meeting on April 11, 2001 that the ISA is a fundamental violation of human rights and called for the immediate release of the reformasi activists detained under the ISA, or they should be charged and tried publicly for any offences under the law.
Even the Suhakam statement of May 24 this year, compromising the earlier Suhakam stand calling for the immediate repeal of ISA by expressing the hope for its repeal "in the long term" as a direct result of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, would be ultra vires by such a narrow and restrictive interpretation of the powers and duties of Suhakam.
Abu Talib said the Harun Hashim Inquiry team was studying into all the legal aspects of this question, and I hope that the Suhakam inquiry tomorrow would not fail the acid test to stand firmly and squarely on its overarching responsibility to promote and protect human rights.
The lawyers for the reformasi six have said that the six ISA detainees have taken a stand to boycott the Harun Hashim inquiry if it is to be restricted solely into their conditions at the Kamunting Detention Centre as it will not do justice to their human rights violations and will not be a bona fide investigation.
The boycott of the Harun Hashim inquiry by the ISA reformasi six if it is confined to their detention conditions in Kamunting will be most understandable, as such a restricted inquiry is a farce and a charade, plunging Suhakam to a new depth of crisis of confidence and credibility.
case for the repeal of the ISA is overpowering in view of its massive abuse in
the past four decades against legitimate political dissent, doing enormous
damage to the civil and political rights of the people of Malaysia, apart from
having long outlived its original purpose to deal with the communist armed
uprising when it was enacted in 1960.
Although in the post-911 world, terrorism had become both an international and national problem which must be addressed frontally, it must not be by way of the perpetuation of the ISA, but through a specific anti-terrorism law.
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
The ISA must be repealed while an all-party conference, involving the civil society, should be convened to consider the need for a special anti-terrorism law to address the problem of terrorism, which should have effective safeguards to ensure that it would not be exploited or abused by the government to launch crackdowns on their political opponents or stifle legitimate dissent.