Why Abu Talib suggesting that  Tian Chua and Hishamuddin lodge police reports instead of launching immediate Suhakam inquiry for human rights violations over their assaults in  Kamunting?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaWednesday):  Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman yesterday said that the two Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees, Tian Chua and Hishamuddin Rais, should lodge police reports for assault by Kamunting detention centre security personnel on May 9 to expedite investigations. 

The question Abu Talib should answer is why he is suggesting that Tian Chua and Hishamuddin lodge police reports instead of launching an  immediate Suhakam inquiry for human rights violations, as several reports had been lodged with Suhakam in connection with the assaults such as by the Abolish ISA Movement (GMI). 

Instead of quoting the Federal Constitution, which Abu Talib said “assured them of their basic rights, despite their status as detainees”, the Suhakam Chairman should be quoting the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999  on the sanctity of human rights and Suhakam’s powers and responsibilities “to inquire into complaints regarding infringements of human rights” (Clause 4). 

In fact, Abu Talib should be asked pointedly whether his suggestion that Tian Chua and Hishamuddin lodge police reports is an “open passing-the-buck”, an  abdication of responsibility by Suhakam and a clear indication that Suhakam would not be instituting any inquiry into the assaults on Tian Chua and Hishamuddin, despite the several reports lodged with it on the human rights violations and the promise by Suhakam officials at the time that the complaints would be dealt with seriously? 

Instead of dwelling on the police’s responsibility “to act o­n whatever public statement has been made if such a statement discloses the commission of a crime” and that there is no need for the police  to wait for a report to be lodged, Abu Talib should have explained why Suhakam had not launched any inquiries into the assaults of the ISA detainees despite several reports having been lodged with it. 

Last month, the Suhakam report on the "Review of the Internal Security Act 1960" tried to  “white-wash” the most infamous example of  gross human rights violations under the Prime Ministership of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad – the mass ISA detentions under  Operation Lalang in 1987,  by omitting all reference  to the human rights crackdown when leaders of the opposition, trade unions, educational bodies, NGOs and the civil society were detained for  their  “crime” of   not seeing eye-to-eye with the powers-of-the-day on a whole spectrum of national issues.  

The credibility of the Suhakam report on its review of the ISA was gravely undermined when  the Suhakam Chairman proudly defended  Operation Lalang, when he was then the  Attorney-General, without showing any sign of contrition or a new understanding of human rights. 

In a  Q&A  interview with Malaysiakini on April 24, Abu Talib said:

“Q:  But you were also responsible for recommending for detention of individuals during the 1987 Operasi Lalang.

“A: I personally argued for it. Yes, I recognised that. But we presented the evidence.

“Q: You had the evidence?

“A: Oh yes. Certainly we had evidence to justify those detentions and consequently the country was spared of another likely racial problem.”

I was one of the Operation Lalang detainees and I challenge Abu Talib to commission a Suhakam public inquiry as to whether the mass ISA arrests of 106 persons under Operation Lalang in 1987 were justifiable on any ground of national security or whether it  was a naked power play involving  blatant abuse of power and violation of human rights which had nothing to do with national security but the political “security” of the powers-that-be.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman