MPs should not fail their human rights responsibilities for the fifth
time in two years and should ensure a special parliamentary debate on
Suhakam's latest report on its public inquiry into the ISA conditions of
by Lim Kit Siang
Friday): Members of Parliament should
not fail their human rights responsibilities for the fifth time in two years
and should ensure a special parliamentary debate on Suhakam's latest report
on its public inquiry into the Internal Security Act conditions of detention
at the forthcoming parliamentary meeting starting on Monday.
In the past two years, Parliament had been most negligent and irresponsible
when it failed its duty to monitor and oversee Suhakam to ensure that the
Human Rights Commission discharge its statutory responsibility to protect
and promote human rights through detailed scrutiny and in-depth debate on
four Suhakam reports, viz:
Suhakam Annual Report 2000 in April 2001
Suhakam report on its first public inquiry into the Kesas
Highway Incident on 5th November 2000 and made public in August 2001;
Suhakam report on Freedom of Assembly submitted to Parliament
on October 2001; and
Suhakam Annual Report 2002 in April 2002.
In June last year, DAP MP for Tanjong, Chow Kon Yeow had tried
twice to get the Suhakam 2001 annual report debated by Parliament, but was
frustrated by the Speaker, Tun Mohamed Zahir Ismail.
If Parliament again abdicates its human rights responsibilities for the
fifth time in two years to debate Suhakam's latest report, then Members of
Parliament would have forfeited their right to criticize government
departments for any similar irresponsibility or dereliction of duty.
In its latest report, Suhakam had made 18 recommendations aimed at improving
the detention conditions of the ISA detainees.
The Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in his capacity
as Home Minister, should table a Ministerial statement on the government's
position on each of the 18 Suhakam recommendations, which should form the
basis for the parliamentary debate on the latest Suhakam report.
The government should in particular state whether it is prepared to accept
Suhakam's recommendations on the following:
The police should at all times exercise their utmost care in
ensuring that the right to liberty, as enshrined in Article 5 of the Federal
Constitution and Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
1948, is not violated without due justification.
Individuals should not be detained under the ISA unless genuine
reasons exist for believing that such individuals are a threat to national
security. Where detentions are necessary, such detentions should only be for
as long as is absolutely necessary.
Effective investigations should be carried out into allegations
of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment of ISA detainees.
Disciplinary action should be taken in respect of officers who have been
found upon investigation to have mistreated detainees.
Family members should be informed of the arrest of detainees
within 24 hours of the arrest. Detainees should not be required to wait for
two weeks before gaining access to their families.
Appropriate amendments should be made to Rule 22(6) of the
Lock-Up Rules 1958, to protect the right to privacy of the detainee during
family visits, as guaranteed under Article 12 of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights.
Detainees should be produced before a magistrate within 24
hours of arrest in accordance with Article 5 of the Federal Constitution.
Detainees should be allowed access to counsel during the
aforesaid production before a magistrate and supplied with a copy of the
grounds of arrest.
As a two-time ISA detainee in 1969 and 1987, I find the claims
by the Special Branch Social Intelligence Assistant Director Anuar Bashah
Mohd Sohore to the Suhakam public inquiry that the 60-day ISA interrogative
custody - where detainees are often held incommunicado - was not a
brain-washing session and that physical force was not used on ISA detainees
as totally lacking in credibility.
Although I had personally not experienced any physical mistreatment, the
fact of physical violence and torture of ISA detainees had been amply
recorded, even in sworn affidavits, for any police officer to make any
It is for this reason that I could empathize with ISA detainee Saari Sungib
when, in his 158-page personal account of his 60-day interrogation, he
exposed police interrogation methods and techniques, including police claims
of the existence and function of an alleged shadowy police unit called
Federal Investigation Team (FIT) and police boasts about having powers to
determine who becomes Malaysia's prime minister and cabinet ministers.
Special Branch police officers who interrogated me and other DAP leaders
during the 1987 Operation Lalang mass arrests had also made various boasts
about their "extraordinary power and influence" as well as various claims
about DAP leaders and their loved ones to undermine our convictions,
steadfastness and fortitude.
On 20th June last year, I had publicly urged the six I ISA reformasi
activists, namely Mohamad Ezam Mohamad Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua Tian
Chang, Saari Sungib, Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam, to reconsider
their boycott of the Suhakam public inquiry headed by Tan Sri Harun Hashim
and that two of them should appear at the inquiry to have their say on their
The six ISA reformasi activists had boycotted the Harun Hashim public
inquiry on two main grounds: the scope of the inquiry and limitation to
their appearance to two representatives instead of by all the six.
Their grave reservations about the scope of the Harun Hashim public inquiry
was valid, and this was also why I had repeatedly asked Suhakam to clarify
whether the inquiry was the beginning of a wide-ranging Suhakam review of
the Internal Security Act including whether it should be repealed or whether
it was strictly limited to inquiry into the detention conditions of the ISA
detainees, including their medical and visitation rights.
I noted that in the first two days of the public inquiry at the Taiping
Prisons Club earlier in the week, although Suhakam commissioners had
publicly stated that the inquiry would be limited to the detention
conditions of the ISA detainees, the testimony went well beyond purely about
the detention conditions.
In the circumstances, the refusal of the six ISA reformasi activists to
reconsider their boycott of the Suhakam inquiry was a missed opportunity to
have their say on ISA so that their first-hand ISA experiences and
statements could be the subject of the Suhakam report and ensuing
parliamentary or national debate.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National