(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The six Internal Security Act (ISA)
reformasi activists, namely Mohamad Ezam Mohamad Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua
Tian Chang, Saari Sungib, Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam, should
reconsider their boycott of the Harun Hashim Suhakam public inquiry and two of
them should appear at the inquiry
to have their say on their ISA detention.
The six ISA reformasi activists have
boycotted the Harun Hashim public inquiry on two main grounds: the scope of the
inquiry and limitation to their appearance by two representatives instead of by
all the six.
grave reservations about the scope of the Harun Hashim public inquiry is valid,
and I had repeatedly asked Suhakam to clarify whether the inquiry is the
beginning of a wide-ranging
Suhakam review of the Internal Security Act (ISA) including whether it should be
repealed or whether it is strictly
limited to inquiry into the detention conditions of the ISA detainees, including
their medical and visitation rights.
In the first two days of the public
inquiry at the Taiping Prisons Club, although Suhakam commissioners had publicly
stated that the inquiry would be limited
to the detention conditions of the ISA detainees, the testimony went well beyond
purely about the detention conditions to the extent that the first-day
proceedings were given extensive international
media coverage, including the Asian Wall Street Journal
front-page report and headline: “Detainees in Malaysia Admit Afghan
Training – Islamic Militant Suspects Tell of Arms Instruction”.
Local media, radio and television
also gave extensive coverage to the first-day proceedings which was not
about ISA detention conditions but about “admissions” by two ISA detainees
about their involvement with Kumpulan Militant Malaysia (KMM) and
past military training in Afghanistan while studying in Pakistan while
another two denied involvement with KMM although admitting being members of
Jemaah Islamiah Malaysia (JIM).
This led to strong protests at the
second day of the inquiry yesterday, with a few ISA detainees accusing the press
of twisting the facts and wrongfully implicating them in the so-called terrorist
One ISA detainee told the inquiry that
local TV station TV3 had wrongfully reported statements from witnesses on the
first day by stating that suspected
KMM members had gone for military training in Afghanistan for five years when in
actual fact they were only in Afghanistan for a few months.
ISA detainee, Zainon Ismail, 46, said the KMM
was only a fictional name created by the police to justify their detentions.
He said: “The KMM is the product of
the police, the real leader of the KMM is police chief Norian Mai. I am just a
“I admit I am a member of the KMM but
it stands for Kumpulan Mangsa Mata-Mata (victims of the police group). ”
In my short visit to the Harun Hashim
public inquiry on Tuesday, I had misgivings about the lines of questioning some
of which led the detainees to make unconscious and even unintended
self-incriminating statements without benefit of counsel.
Be that as it may, it would appear that
despite the announced narrow scope of the Harun Hashim public inquiry, there is
room for the six ISA reformasi activists to have their say on their ISA
detention, although they have to do it through two representatives and not by
all six of them.
The statement by Harun yesterday that
the public inquiry is being held to give the commission, the public and the
world “a clear picture of the Internal Security Act and whether it is truly a
violation of human rights” has added further confusion about the scope and
purpose of the inquiry - for if its
purpose is to conduct a public inquiry into whether the ISA is a
fundamental violation of human
rights, then its proceedings should be structured very differently from one
limited to detention conditions.
Malaysiakini reported yesterday that,
“in a surprise move”, Harun closed the public session a day short of the
scheduled three days but he held out
the possibility of continuing the public inquiry later.
In the circumstances, the six ISA
reformasi activists should reconsider their boycott of the Harun Hashim public
inquiry and ask for two of their representatives to appear at the resumption of
the public inquiry to have their say on ISA and