Malaysians have enough of the wishy-washy, inane and meaningless utterances on ISA and human rights by deputy home ministers and demand seriousness and proper government attitude and accountability
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Malaysians have enough of the wishy-washy, inane and meaningless utterances on the Internal Security Act (ISA) and human rights by deputy home ministers, the latest by Chor Chee Heung yesterday when he claimed that the fate of the ISA reformasi six, Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor, Tian Chua, Hishamuddin Rais, Saari Sungib, Dr Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam will not depend on the general election but whether they are no longer a threat to national security.
That the reformasi activists who were detained under the ISA two years ago in April 2001 were threats to national security had been a fiction right from the very beginning, and this was why Suhakam had immediately come out with a statement after a special meeting on 11th April 2001 calling for their immediate release.
Suhakam could not be accused of being soft or unmindful about security considerations when it made the call for the immediate release of the reformasi activists, as its Chairperson was none other than former Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Tan Sri Musa Hitam, and who subsequently made the controversial statement later in the year that democracy and human rights must take a back seat to security as a result of the worldwide economic and political crisis following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
I disagreed vehemently with Musaís statement which was most misguided, but this further strengthened the power of Suhakamís call in April 2001 for the immediate release of the reformasi activists as the former Home Minister, ever fixated by his security perspective as former Home Minister, clearly did not regard the reformasi activists as security threats justifying any ISA detention.
In May 2001, the Shah Alam High Court made judicial history when Justice Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus became the first judge in the 21st century to grant the habeas corpus application of two reformasi activists detained under the ISA and freed N. Gopalakrishnan and Abdul Ghani Haroon.
If not for Justice Hishamudinís decision, both would have joined the ranks of the refomasi six and would be languishing in the Kamunting detention centre now as threats to national security Ė but some two years have passed which have proved the falsity and baselessness of the original ISA arrests against both, as well as against the others, in April 2001.
In September last year, the Federal Court pronounced on the mala fide of the ISA arrests by the police against the reformasi activists and which by extension, should have invalidated the subsequent Ministerís order of detention against them Ė which was why Suhakam issued a statement dated 17th September 2002 calling on the Home Minister to review and release the reformasi activists in the spirit of the Federal Court decision. But this was completely ignored, showing the governmentís total lack of commitment to the rule of law.
Although the two-year ISA detention order for the reformasi activists would only expire in June, they have all been detained for more than two years and the farce of their being threats to national security should come to an end, as everybody knows that their detention were purely politically-motivated.
DAP calls on the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to order their immediate release from detention instead of dragging out the full two years of their formal detention, let alone toying with the notion of extending their detention with a new order for another two years in Kamunting.
Chorís comments on the Suhakamís ISA Review report is another supreme insult to the intelligence of the people of Malaysia.
His statements that the government has always taken Suhakamís feedback in a positive spirit and that every recommendation would be studied carefully as to whether or not it is suitable for adoption are pure meaningless verbiage, when the Home Ministry has not learnt the elementary courtesy of presenting a report to Parliament on Suhakamís recommendations on ISA and human rights in areas which come directly under its purview.
Nobody expects the Home Ministry to fully agree with all the Suhakam recommendations on human rights issues, but the least it should do is to show proper respect to Suhakam by treating everyone of its recommendations seriously Ė by coming out with a published report giving its views, thinking and position on each recommendation or proposal and tabling it in Parliament to enable MPs to conduct a meaningful debate.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman