Email to Abdullah to immediately release the reformasi five under ISA without having to wait until June 1 as there can be no basis for any extension of their detention – whether national security, rule of law, good governance or political morality
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): I have today sent an email to the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi asking him to immediately release the reformasi five, Tian Chua, Saari Sungib, Lokman Noor Adam, Dr Badrul Amin and Hishamuddin Rais from detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) without having to wait until June 1, the expiry of their two-year detention order, as there can be no basis for any extension of their detention – whether national security, rule of law, good governance or political morality.
Today is the Countdown Day Six for the reformasi five – whether they walk out of Kamunting Detention Centre next Sunday as free men after 26 months of ISA incarceration or whether they would be locked away for another two years as “national security” threats for which no iota of proof had been produced by the authorities, whether to the Federal Court, the ISA Advisory Board or the national and international courts of public opinion.
There is no good or acceptable reason why Abdullah should not immediately release the reformasi five or why Abdullah should insist that they serve every second and minute of their two-year formal detention order on top of the two months of interrogative police custody which will only convey the impression of vindictiveness.
In my email to Abdullah, I referred to the statement by the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Zainal Abdin Zin reported by Malaysiakini last Friday which raised serious questions about the validity, legitimacy and justice of the ISA detention of the reformasi six (including Mohamad Ezam, currently in Kajang Prison serving sentence following conviction under the Official Secrets Act).
Zainal had said that whether or not the reformasi activists will be freed once their two-year ISA detention orders expire on June 1 will depend on reports prepared by their case officers. He said the current standard practice includes an interview to review the detainees’ behaviour over the last two years.
He said: "The basis for consideration would be the reports prepared by the interrogators/investigators and special officers handling the ISA cases. This includes the degree of cooperation extended to the officers, their behaviour, habits, character and openness in answering the relevant charges."
I asked Abdullah whether Zainal’s comments meant that the May 9 incident, where Tian Chua and Hishamuddin Rais had been assaulted by Kamunting Detention Centre personnel, could be one of the factors for consideration as to whether to extend their ISA detention after June 1? If so, this is simply outrageous!
In my email to Abdullah, I said:
More serious however is Zainal’s unintended admission that the detention of the reformasi six was unlawful and a gross abuse of power.
Last September, the Federal Court in an unanimous decision held that the police had acted mala fides in the ISA detention of the reformasi activists, who were detained “because of their political beliefs and not because they were a threat to national security”.
In countries where the government has scrupulous regard and respect for the rule of law, the reformasi activists would have been released immediately with the court finding that their detentions were “for an ulterior political purpose and unconnected with the national security”.
Instead, the government came out with the fiction that the Federal Court judgment was against the police detention under section 73 of the ISA while the reformasi activists were already detained under the Ministerial order under section 8, as if the Minister could issue an ISA detention order completely independent of police investigations and recommendations.
Zainal’s Friday statement had debunked such a fallacious and schizophrenic interpretation of the ISA by making it clear that the Minister’s detention order of the reformasi six under Section 8 had been based on police advice, but which had been ruled as unlawful, null and void by the Federal Court. This should be an even stronger reason for their immediate release and why there can be no basis, whether from the standpoint of national security, the rule of law, good governance or political morality, to extend the detention of the reformasi six by another two years from June 1.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman