Suhakam should seek urgent meeting with Abdullah to get assurance that the ISA detention of the reformasi five would not be extended on their expiry on June 1and launch a Daily Countdown for their release

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaFriday):  Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman should seek an urgent meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to seek his assurance that the Internal Security Act (ISA) detention of the reformasi five Tian Chua, Saari Sungib, Lokman Noor Adam, Dr Badrul Amin and Hishamuddin

Rais would not be extended on their expiry on June 1, for the following three  important  reasons:


  • On 11th April 2001, Suhakam after a special meeting, expressed its “deep regrets on the use of the ISA” to detain the reformasi activists, reiterated  that “Detention without trial constitutes a fundamental human rights violation” and called on the authorities to release them immediately or to charge and try them in an open court if they had committed any offence.
  • On 6th April 2002, the Federal Court held that the police had acted mala fide in detaining the reformasi activists under the Internal Security Act, "because of their political beliefs and not because they were a threat to national security", but the government has refused to release the reformasi activists by resorting to the fiction that they are detained under Section 8 of the ISA by Ministerial order and not under Section 73 by Police Order – as if the Minister could detain anyone  independently of police investigations and recommendations.
  • After the Federal Court decision, the ISA Advisory Board had twice recommended the release of the reformasi five, again demonstrating that their continued detention is  baseless, unwarranted and mala fide.


Although  the government is not bound legally and constitutionally by the recommendations of the ISA Advisory Board and Suhakam on ISA detentions, it has failed its moral and political responsibility and the principles of good governance to give  serious consideration to the recommendations of the Advisory Board and Suhakam or to give convincing reasons to Parliament and the nation to justify their continued detention – highlighting its lack of commitment to the fundamental principle of democratic governance, the just rule of law.


The assaults on   Tian Chua and Hishamuddin Rais by Kamunting detention personnel – the infamous May 9 Incident – and the failure to date by the highest authorities to come out publicly with a fair and independent account raises the legitimate question as to whether they are part of an orchestrated scenario to further extend their two-year ISA detention on their expiry on June 1.


As a statutory body specifically set up by Parliament to protect and promote human rights, Suhakam should regard this issue as a crucial and critical test of its relevance and this is why the Suhakam Chairman should lead the entire board of Suhakam commissioners for an urgent meeting with Abdullah to impress on the Home Minister that there should be no extension of the ISA detention for the reformasi five.


As there are nine days to go before June 1, Suhakam should spearhead a nation-wide Daily Countdown for the release of the reformasi five under the ISA – to use it as an occasion to conscientise Malaysians about the importance of giving greater respect and regard to human rights in all aspects of national life.


In the nine-day countdown, Malaysians concerned about human rights should make their voices heard loud and clear that the reformasi five should be restored their most fundamental human and citizenship rights – the right to liberty of the person and freedom from arbitrary arrests or detention without trial.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman