Government might as well dissolve the ISA Advisory Board and Suhakam as redundant and anachronisms if it is not prepared to end its cavalier attitude towards them and give serious consideration to their recommendations

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): For the first time, the government has publicly admitted that it has rejected the Internal Security Act (ISA) Advisory Board recommendations for the release of the five reformasi activists, Tian Chua, Saari Sungib, Lokman Noor Adam, Dr Badrul Amin and Hishamuddin Rais.

Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin said during question time in Parliament yesterday that the government was not bound by the proposals made either by the Advisory Board or the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) on ISA detentions.

Zainal claimed that the government is responsible for upholding the country's peace and security and "the rights of the majority are more important than the rights of the indivuals or groups who act against the country's laws and regulations".

These are rubbishy arguments that cannot stand rational scrutiny or debate as well as most offensive as if suggesting those who disagree with the government want to see the ruin of the country and the collapse of law and order.

Is Zainal imputing that the ISA Advisory Board, which is created by Article 151 of the Malaysian Constitution and appointed by the Yang di Pertuan Agong to review the Home Ministers' exercise of detention-without-trial powers, has become a "subversive" organization whenever it recommends the release of an ISA detainee?

Similarly, is Zainal insinuating that Suhakam, created by Parliament to promote and protect human rights, with the Chairman and members appointed by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, with a former Deputy Prime Minister as its first Chairman and former Attorney-General as its second and current chairman, would be guilty of undermining the laws of the country and advocating absolute licence for the people disregarding "the rights of the majority" whenever it disagrees with the government-of-the-day on any ISA detention?

If this is the closed-mind and cavalier attitude of the government towards the ISA Advisory Board and Suhakam, treating them as redundant and anachronisms, refusing to give serious consideration to their recommendations, both should be closed down to end their farcical role and save unnecessary squandering of taxpayers' money.

While the government is not bound legally and constitutionally by the recommendations of the ISA Advisory Board and Suhakam on ISA detentions, it has a moral and political responsibility as well as bound by the principles of good governance not only to give serious consideration to the recommendations of the Advisory Board and Suhakam but also be seen to have given such serious consideration.

For this reason, Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his capacity as Home Minister should make a Ministerial statement in Parliament before the end of its current meeting on Thursday to state the reasons for the rejection of the recommendations of the ISA Advisory Board for the release of the reformasi five under the ISA - to set a good example of good governance to other Ministers and all government departments.

If the government is unable to give cogent, reasonable and acceptable reasons why it had rejected the ISA Advisory Board's recommendations, it should release the reformasi five from ISA detention without any delay to demonstrate its subscription to the rule of law and commitment to human rights - especially as the reformasi five would be marking the second anniversary of their ISA detention in a few days' time.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman