Will Abu Talib apologise if proof is produced  that he had described ISA solitary confinement in police remand centres under Operation Lalang as being put in a single room in a hotel?

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Thursday): In an interview with Malaysiakini yesterday, the new Suhakam Chairman and former Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman has denied that he had likened remand centres for Operation Lalang  Internal Security Act detainees for  their harsh 60-day interrogative custody in 1987 as similar to hotel treatment. 

Will Abu Talib apologise if proof is produced  that he had described ISA solitary confinement of  Operation Lalang ISA detainees in police remand centres as being put in a single room in a hotel, and admit that he would have to undergo a sea-change in his understanding, attitude  and approach to human rights now that he is Suhakam Chairman with the statutory duty to protect and promote human rights  as compared to his 13 years as Attorney-General from 1980 to 1993, when he played a key role to trample on human rights?  

Abu Talib yesterday dismissed criticism that Suhakam would be tainted by his controversial past, claiming that his so-called “tainted past” was all a creation of the press.  

His irresponsible  public statement in November 1987 likening solitary confinement of Operation Lalang ISA detainees in the police remand centres during their 60-day interrogative custody as being put in a single room in a hotel would be proof that his so-called “tainted past” is not all a creation of the press, and put the focus on his role in several past controversies which cannot but raise disturbing questions about his credibility, independence and integrity as Suhakam Chairman, namely:  


Yesterday, Abu Talib defended his past roles in two controversies, the 1987  Lalang mass ISA detentions and the 1988 sacking of Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas.  If Abu Talib can still defend  the Operation Lalang mass ISA detentions, how can he be expected to support the Suhakam stand that the detention-without-trial  Internal Security Act is a violation of human rights and should be repealed, and that the ISA reformasi six, Mohamad Ezam Mohamad Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua Tian Chang, Saari Sungib, Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam, should be immediately released or put on trial?  

Similarly, if Abu Talib has no remorse and is very proud of his sterling services and strategic role in the ousting of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President through a taintined judicial tribunal - which had been described as a “kangaroo court” -  how can he be expected as Suhakam Chairman to protect and promote one of the most important human rights - the right to  the rule of law and a competent, independent and impartial judiciary?  

The important right to justice as a precondition to protect and promote human rights  has been repeatedly declared and upheld in international human rights instruments, whether the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and on Civil and Political Rights. 

The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in fact, states:  

"Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law".  

Yesterday, Abu Talib told Bernama that his priority on the job is to ensure that human rights is continuously practised in Malaysia without any discrimination. 

As this is the third day that the mainstream electronic and English/Bahasa Malaysia print media had blacked out criticisms of his appointment as Suhakam Chairman, will he publicly express his dismay at such continuous violation of the right to freedom of speech, expression  and the  press in Malaysia?


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman