Is Harun Hashim inquiry the beginning of Suhakam review  of the ISA or is it strictly limited to Kamunting Detention Centre conditions?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Wednesday)The Harun Hashim Suhakam inquiry on-going  at the Taiping Prisons Sports Club raises the important question as to its nature and scope, whether it is the beginning of a Suhakam review of the Internal Security Act (ISA) or whether it is strictly limited to inquiry into the detention conditions of the ISA detainees, including their medical and visitation rights.  

In its press statement of  24th May 2002, Suhakam said “Suhakam has begun a review of the Internal Security Act 1960 (Act 82) to ensure that both national security and human rights can be promoted and protected.  The review will include a study of safeguards such as judicial review, access to counsel, incommunicado detention, right to challenge all the evidence used to determine whether a person is a ‘national security risk’, and a specific time limit to the period of detention to ensure that a detainee will be freed or charged in open court.  The review will also include a study on the proposal to repeal the Act.”  

During my brief visit to the inquiry yesterday, and from reports of the proceedings yesterday and today, there are no signs that the Harun Hashim inquiry is the beginning of a comprehensive review of the ISA as to whether it should be repealed or whether judicial and other safeguards should be introduced to ensure that “human rights can be promoted and protected”, as the lines of questioning by the Commissioners were primarily on their detention conditions and even leading the detainees to make self-incriminating statements without benefit of counsel.  

If the Harun Hashim inquiry is merely to look into the detention conditions, it is not only a breach of a public Suhakam undertaking to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the ISA detention of the six reformasi activists, namely Mohamad Ezam Mohamad Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua Tian Chang, Saari Sungib, Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam, but also a redundant exercise.  

The Suhakam Annual Report 2001 tabled in Parliament on Monday reported that the Visitation Sub-Working Group (VSG) of the Complaints & Inquiry Working Group (CIWG) had made two visits, one in July and the other in November,  to the Kamunting Detention Centre last year as a result of complaints made on behalf of the ISA detainees. 

As far as I know, the Suhakam recommendations from these two visits to Kamunting detention centre to inquire into the conditions of the ISA detainees have not been accepted and implemented by the government, such as:

Suhakam should make a clear and immediate statement as to the scope and purpose of its present inquiry.  

A Round-Table Conference on Suhakam Annual Report 2001 will be held at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (first floor) on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to discuss the state of human rights in Malaysia two years after the establishment of Suhakam. 

Among those who have agreed to participate in the Round Table Conference are HAKAM President, Ramdas Tikamdas, former Bar Council Chairman Zainur Zakaria, Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) coordinator Collin Nicholas,  SUARAM Executive Director Cynthia Gabriel, Women NGOs representative Irene Xavier,  Concerned Citizen Group Coordinator Charles Santiago and others.  

I have also sent an invitation to the Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman to attend and participate in the Round Table Conference, as it will be a useful bridge between Suhakam and the NGO community and the civil society. 

Admission to the  Round Table Conference on Suhakam Report 2001 is by invitation only, and those interested should register themselves by Saturday by contacting Ms Nancy Wong or Ms Yong (Tel: 03-79578022; Fax: 03-79575718; Email: [email protected])


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman