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Parliamentary Human Rights Caucus welcomes government decision on salary increase for 11,280 prison officers but wants assurance about full restoration of parity of pay and perks with police officers
(Penang, Sunday): The Parliamentary Human Rights Caucus welcomes the government decision on the salary increase for 11,280 prison officers as announced by the Deputy Internal Security Minister Chia Kwang Chye in Kajang yesterday (New Sunday Times p.20) as this was one of the issues highlighted by Members of Parliament in the Human Rights Parliamentary Caucus after visiting the Simpang Rengam and Kamunting Detention Centres last month.
However, as Chia did not provide details of the long-overdue pay increase for the prisoner officers, the details of the pay rise for the prison officers should be made public as the Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights wants an assurance about the full restoration of parity of pay and perks of prisoner personnel with their police counterparts.
After the visits to the Simpang Rengam and Kamunting Detention Centres, I had made the point on behalf of the Human Rights Parliamentary Caucus of the urgency to transform prison staff into professionals and not just be responsible for locking people behind doors and high walls. This transformation should start with the restoration of the parity of pay and perks of prison officers with the police which was lost in the Sistem Saraan Baru (SSB) implementation in the early 90s, to the extent that there could be difference of several hundred ringgit between equivalent ranks in the police and the prison services.
I am very disappointed however by the knee-jerk reaction of Chia to the call by the Human Rights Parliamentary Caucus for the release of all Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees who had served for more than two years, as many of them are coming to the end of their second two-year detention order and are awaiting anxiously as to whether they would be released or have their ISA detention extended by another two years.
When the Human Rights Parliamentary Caucus visited the Kamunting Detention Centre on June 17, we met the ISA detainees in all the five detention blocks. Out of the 115 ISA detainees, 68 were for Jemaah Islamiah (JI), nine for Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM), 22 for counterfeit currency, 13 for document falsification and one for nuclear weapons black-marketing.
The JI detainees, many of whom had been detained for more than three years, felt great injustice that the “small fries” are still in detention when the JI “big fishes”, like the suspected high-ranking JI leaders Mohd Iqbal Abdul Rahman and Wan Min Wan Mat, had already been released.
Mohd Iqbal, an Indonesian with Malaysian permanent resident status, and who was said to be the second most powerful JI member after Riduan Isamuddin, or Hambali, was released in August 2003 while Wan Min Wan Mat, alleged to be the financier of JI, was released in March this year.
Chia said a person’s release under ISA detention would depend on whether he is still regarded by the Internal Security Ministry as a national security threat. (Sin Chew 29.6.05 online)
Such an explanation is bunkum, as the history of ISA detentions is replete with victims of the draconian law - detainees who had been detained although they pose no threat to the national security whatsoever. The classic example of the gross abuses of power of the ISA for political purposes completely unrelated to national security considerations was the mass ISA arrests under Operation Lalang in 1987, which was more of a political than security operation.
During my second ISA detention in Kamunting in 1987, I discovered that there were several ISA detainees who had been detained for more than 10 years and one as long as 16 years who had been forgotten by the authorities, and who were released after the DAP MPs in Parliament made this into a hot issue.
It is sad that Chia, as Gerakan Secretary-General, has chosen to be apologist for all the human rights violations, abuses and excesses of power committed in the name of ISA in the past 45 years, including the infamous “Operation Lalang”, by claiming that every ISA detention, past and present, is a bona fide case of “threat to national security”.
The Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights urges the ISA detaining authorities to give serious note to the caucus call for the release of all ISA detainees currently in Kamunting Detention Centre who had been detained for more than two years or they should be charged in court for an open trial to determine whether they had committed any offences under the laws of the country.