Immediate and unconditional release of reformasi six under ISA an acid test as to whether Malaysia is ready to take the quantum leap to a “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality” nation where human rights are accorded proper place and respect
- at the Abolish ISA Campaign Media Conference on the six reformasi ISA detainees
by Lim Kit Siang
(Kuala Lumpur, Tuesday): Today is Countdown Day Five for four reformasi activists detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) - Tian Chua, Saari Sungib, Hishamuddin Rais and Mohamad Ezam Mohd Nor – whether the first three walk out of Kamunting Detention Centre as free men on June 1 or the four will continue to be victims of the draconian ISA for another two years. A similar decision awaits Lokman Noor Adam and Dr Badrulamin Bahron, whose ISA detention orders expire eleven days later on 12th June.
DAP calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the reformasi six under the ISA, which is an acid test for the leadership and vision of the Prime Minister-designate, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as well as whether Malaysia is ready to take the quantum leap to a “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality” nation where human rights are accorded proper place and respect.
There can be reason or justification whatsoever to extend the two-year ISA detention of the six – as they should never have been locked away in Kamunting Detention Centre in the first place.
The Federal Court last September had unanimously struck down the legality of their initial ISA detention by police order under Section 73 of the ISA as mala fide, which would have rendered the subsequent Ministerial order for their ISA detention under Section 8 nugatory and defective as well.
A Minister can overrule police recommendations for the detention of persons under the ISA if he has good reasons for doing so, but it is unthinkable for a Minister to order any ISA detention without any valid police recommendation for doing so – as ruled by the Federal Court with reference to the reformasi activists!
It was reported by Malaysiakini yesterday that three officers from the Home Affairs Ministry had met the reformasi detainees at the Kamunting detention centre last Friday. Last week, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin had said that whether the ISA detainees will be released or not depended on the reports prepared by case officers, and that the current standard practice includes an interview to review the detainees’ behaviour over the last two years.
New Straits Times today reported that the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is on 10-day leave, and is spending his holiday in Australia with his wife, Datuk Seri Endon Mahmood. He is expected to be back at work on Monday, June 2.
The first question that arises is whether a decision has been taken with regard to Tian Chua, Saari Sungib and Hishamuddin Rais, i.e. whether they would be able to walk out of Kamunting as free men on the expiry of their two-year ISA detention order on Sunday, June 1 or whether they would be released with conditions and restrictions or worse, their detention would be renewed for another two years.
Normally, such a decision would not be left to the last minute, and would be taken a few weeks or a month before the expiry of the ISA detention order.
If Abdullah had already taken a decision before he went on a 10-day leave “down under”, then last Friday’s interview of the reformasi detainees by Special Branch officers were redundant and pure waste of public resources and time.
If Abdullah had not yet made any decision on the matter, the question is who would be making such a decision as he would not return to his duties as Home Minister until the expiry of the two-year ISA detention for four of the detainees on Sunday.
Will such a decision be delegated to Zainal as the Deputy Home Minister or whether it would be decided by the real Acting Home Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad?
There is no reason for any secrecy or mystery on the government’s decision on the reformasi ISA detainees - whether they would be restored their freedom, released with conditions or further detained for another two years – and DAP calls on the government to be frank, truthful and transparent on the matter which vitally affects the status of human rights in Malaysia.
DAP leaders will join the families of the detainees who will visit the Kamunting Detention Centre on Sunday, 1st June 2003 at 12 noon to demand the immediate release of their loved ones.
The DAP Central Executive Committee at its meeting tonight will adopt a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the ISA reformasi detainees and for a full parliamentary debate next month for the repeal of the ISA, which is one of the recommendations of the Suhakam Report on Review of ISA.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman