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

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaMonday):  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