Second urgent fax to Abdullah to  visit six ISA reformasi activists as his statement that the detainees have started taking meals from Wednesday was an unfair  misrepresentation of the truth

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Friday): I have this morning sent a second urgent fax to Deputy Prime Minister  and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for permission to immediately visit the six ISA reformasi activists, Mohamad Ezam Mohamad

Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua Tian Chang, Saari Sungib, Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam who are on the tenth day of their hunger strike as his statement in Bukit Mertajam yesterday that the detainees had called off their hunger strike and that the detainees had already begun to take their meals from Wednesday was a gross and unfair misrepresentation of the truth. 

In my fax to Abdullah this morning, I said: 

“This is to refer to my urgent fax to you yesterday asking to be allowed to make an immediate visit to Kamunting to meet the six ISA reformasi six who are now undergoing the tenth day of their hunger strike.  I have ascertained that your statement yesterday that the detainees had reportedly called off their hunger strike and had begun  taking their meals since Wednesday is incorrect and untrue, and a most unfair misrepresentation of what is happening in Kamunting. 

“In the circumstances, I am renewing my fax yesterday asking to be allowed to visit the six detainees in Kamunting out of national and international concern about their health and wellbeing as well as in the best interests of the good name of the country.” 

Abdullah said  the Director-General of Prisons  had reported to him that the detainees had already begun  taking their meals on Wednesday.  Abdullah should be very wary of such reports as the history of hunger strikes by Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees have shown a consistent policy of deliberate  misinformation by the detention authorities to down-play the event to undermine public concern and support or to break the will of the detainees   by defaming  the hunger strikers. 

For instance, during the week-long hunger strike by 18 Operation Lalang detainees on the anniversary of their detention in October/November 1988, the electronic and printed media gave big play to the falsehoods uttered by the then Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Megat Junid Megat Ayub that a few of the detainees, including DAP leaders  Karpal Singh, Lim Guan Eng and Lau Dak Kee had been found to be “curi makan” during the hunger strike.  

When pressed for evidence, neither Megat Junid nor the Superintendent of Kamunting detention centre at the time could produce any evidence to substantiate such falsehoods. 

Subsequently, whenever Megat Junid was questioned or challenged about his allegations that Operation Lalang detainees had “curi makan” during the anniversary hunger strike, Megat Junid had invariably evaded the issue by claiming that he was only retailing what had been reported to him by his subordinates and that he was in no position to personally  substantiate the truth or otherwise of his allegations. 

Abdullah should have learnt from the dishonourable Megat Junid episode trying to defame the Operation Lalang detainees on their anniversary hunger strike and he should not have publicly retailed what the Director-General of Prisons had reported to him about the six reformasi ISA hunger strikers unless he is prepared to put his reputation on the line on their veracity either to resign as Home Minister if he could not substantiate what was  reported to him  or to sack the Director-General of Prisons for rumour-mongering.  It will be  the height of Ministerial irresponsibility for Abdullah to escape accountability for his statement by claiming that he was only repeating what had been reported to him by his subordinates! 

It is most unfortunate that the first high-level government  response to the hunger strike by the six ISA reformasi activists is not only a  misrepresentation of the truth but couched in such a truculent and confrontationist language, completely devoid of sensitivity and responsiveness to national and international concerns about the health and welfare of the hunger strikers both inside and outside Kamunting detention centre.    

Abdullah alleged that the hunger strike of the six reformasi activists was only to draw public attention to their political struggles but they failed to gain the support of the majority of the people in the country 

Abdullah should not politicise national and international concerns about the injustice of detention-without-trial laws like the ISA  and he should set the example of being able to differentiate between the politics of the six detainees and the gross human rights violations in incarcerating them without trial.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman