Hamid Albar should explain why he is holding up tabling of latest Suhakam report on its public inquiry into ISA conditions of detention in Parliament two-thirds into its current meeting when it was made public before opening of Parliament

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Sunday): Four days before the official opening of Parliament by the Yang di Pertuan Agong on March 10, Suhakam released its report on its public inquiry into the Internal Security Act (ISA) conditions of detention and Suhakam commissioner, Tan Sri Harun Hashim, expressed the hope that the Suhakam report would be debated in Parliament.

Although Parliament has met for two-thirds of its current 18-day parliamentary meeting, there are no signs of the tabling of the Suhakam report let alone a schedule for its parliamentary debate.

The Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar should explain why he has held up the Suhakam report from being tabled in Parliament already two-thirds into its current meeting, when it was made public before the opening of Parliament, and preventing its full debate.

Malaysians remember the row kicked up by the Foreign Ministry when the first Suhakam annual report was presented directly to the Parliament Speaker by the first Suhakam chairman, Tan Sri Musa Hitam, in April 2001, claiming that Suhakam should not communicate directly with Parliament but must do it through the Foreign Minister, the Minister designated by the government as responsible for Suhakam.

Hamid Albar should be censured if he is responsible for holding up the latest Suhakam report from being tabled in Parliament in circumstances where it would be impossible for a full parliamentary debate to be held in the current meeting scheduled to end on April 8, when Parliament had failed in the past two years to monitor and oversee Suhakam to assess as to whether the Human Rights Commission had discharged its statutory responsibility to protect and promote human rights by debating four Suhakam reports completed so far, 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.

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.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman