Release of reformasi activists under ISA has saved Mahathir from the eye of an international storm at the G8 Summit for repressive and draconian suppression of political dissent
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): DAP welcomes the release of the four refomasi activists under the Internal Security Act (ISA) - Tian Chua, Saari Sungib, Hishamuddin Rais and Mohamad Ezam Mohd Nor – and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the two remaining reformasi activists, Lokman Noor Adam and Dr Badrulamin Bahron, as there can be no excuse or justification to detain them for another ten days under the ISA until the full expiry of their two-year detention orders on 12th June.
The release of the reformasi activists under ISA has saved the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad from the eye of an international storm at the G8 Summit at the French and Swiss border towns of Evian and Lausanne opposite each other at Geneva Lake for repressive and draconian suppression of political dissent.
The continued detention or victimization of the reformasi activists under the ISA, whether with a two-year extension of the detention or conditional release with undemocratic restrictions, would have marred Mahathir’s participation at the G8 Summit Informal Dialogue, as it would make nonsense of the Kuala Lumpur Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit Final Document on human rights and undermined his credibility as the spokesperson of the developing world.
The reformasi activists have to thank the G8 Summit for their release from the ISA.
The transfer of Tian Chua and Hishamuddin from Kamunting detention centre to Taiping Prison last night until their freedom could be fully restored with regard to bail arrangements relating to various outstanding criminal charges against them was most unwarranted, unnecessary and deplorable, as it gave the impression of spitefulness and vindictiveness on the part of the authorities.
There can be no good reason why the detainees’ families and lawyers could not have been informed earlier about their unconditional release for the bail arrangements to be completed beforehand without causing a further second of incarceration for Tian Chua and Hishammudin.
The latest report that Tian Chua would have to spend another day in Taiping Prison because his bail application at the Kulim magistrate’s court has been postponed till tomorrow has reinforced questions as to whether there is any deliberate attempt to “fix” him up by forcing him to spend as long a time as possible in Taiping Prison.
The comments by “a senior Malaysian official” in the AFP report yesterday expressing the hope that the ISA detainees “have learned a lesson” and that they would “abide by the laws of the country” are most unacceptable and must be repudiated in the most categorical manner, especially as it should not be difficult to guess his identity despite his condition of anonymity .
This “senior Malaysian official” said: “We do not want people to abuse their freedom and democracy. …. When we detain people, we detain them for a reason. We now think they are no longer a threat to national security.”
This is the most glaring and blatant evidence of the total abuse and misuse of the ISA, not for any national security purpose, but for the sense of political security of the powers-that-be.
The ISA was never enacted to teach anyone “a lesson” about Malaysian politics, but solely to protect Malaysia from the threat of communist insurrection.
Parliament never enacted an ISA to empower detention-without-trial solely on the ground that those in authority merely “think” without any evidence that a person is a threat to national security, as in the case of the reformasi activists – and this is one of the major flaws of the Suhakam Report on Review of ISA, that it dared not “call a spade a spade” to point out that one of the most egregious and pernicious history of the ISA is 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 or the detention of the reformasi activists.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman