DAP calls for a serious consultation process, involving a Cabinet Committee, an all-party parliamentary working group and nation-wide discussions on Suhakam’s most commendable review and recommendations for repeal of ISA and its replacement by a new comprehensive human rights-sensitive national security legislation
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Suhakam and in particular its Law Reform Working Group chaired by former Court of Appeal Judge, Datuk K. C. Vohrah, deserve commendation for the solid work entailed in the report on the "Review of the Internal Security Act 1960" released yesterday, and its many recommendations which could be grouped into two main proposals:
The Suhakam report hit the nail on its head when it pinpointed two fundamental objections to the ISA, viz:
The Suhakam report however pulled its punches when it referred to “two main ways” human rights had been infringed by “the manner in which sections 8 and 73 of the ISA have been applied to date”, viz:
It is a detraction from its full value that the Suhakam report on ISA review felt that discretion is the better part of valour and failed to “call a spade a spade”, as one of the most egregious and pernicious history of the ISA is its stultifying the healthy growth of a vibrant democracy by throttling dissent, whether in the political or civil society spheres as illustrated by the notorious Operation Lalang dragnet of 1987 – when leaders of the opposition, trade unions, educational bodies, NGOs and the civil society were detained when their only “crime” was not seeing eye-to-eye with the powers-of-the-day on a whole spectrum of national issues.
The failure to make any reference to Operation Lalang highlights this major weaknesses of the Suhakam report.
Be that as it may, the Suhakam ISA review report is still the most authoritative and weighty review of the ISA that has been made in the 43-year history of the ISA, specifically under the statute passed by Parliament establishing Suhakam to “advise and assist the Government” on human rights.
The question is whether the Suhakam report on ISA review would be treated seriously or whether it would be dismissed with the contempt which had been given to previous Suhakam reports, not only by the Cabinet, Government, Parliament but also by the NGOs.
Cabinet Ministers like the Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar and the Minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin have already dismissed the Suhakam report as irrelevant, saying that the government has no intention to enact a new national security law to replace the ISA and that the ISA had proved effective in dealing with subversion and terrorism as well as maintaining peace and security. (Utusan Malaysia)
Are their reactions the result of considered study of the Suhakam recommendations by the Cabinet or are they the knee-jerk reactions of Ministers whose minds are closed to any proposal “to redress the imbalance between national security and human rights under the ISA” following the Suhakam’s conclusion that “it is clear that the balance between national security and human rights under the ISA is disproportionately weighted in favour of national security”?
If the Cabinet Ministers are not prepared to have open minds to consider and weigh the Suhakam’s advice on human rights, then what is the use of the government asking Parliament to enact a law to create Suhakam?
DAP calls for a serious consultation process, involving a Cabinet Committee, an all-party parliamentary working group and nation-wide discussions on Suhakam’s most commendable review and recommendations for repeal of ISA and its replacement by a new comprehensive human rights-sensitive national security legislation – leading to the publication of the reports of the Cabinet Committee and the all-party parliamentary working group, and the allocation of time when Parliament reconvenes in June so that it is at the top of its agenda to debate the Suhakam report on ISA review.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman