Deputy Home Minister’s statement has confirmed that the ISA detention of reformasi six were arbitrary and unlawful and any extension of their two-year detention after June 1 would be subjecting them and their families to double jeopardy and injustices
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): Today is the Countdown Day Eight for the reformasi five, Tian Chua, Saari Sungib, Lokman Noor Adam, Dr Badrul Amin and Hishamuddin Rais – whether they walk out of Kamunting Detention Centre as free men or they will continue to be shackled to the Kamunting detention centre with their two-year Internal Security Act (ISA) detention order extended by another two years.
Yesterday, the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Zainal Abdin Zin confirmed that their ISA detention (including Mohd Ezam) were arbitrary and unlawful. It is clear that any extension of their detention after June 1 would be grossly inhumane by subjecting them and their families to double jeopardy and double injustices.
Zainal made this admission unintentionally when he told Malaysiakini that whether or not the reformasi activists will be freed once their two-year ISA detention orders expire on June 1 will depend on reports prepared by their case officers. He said the current standard practice includes an interview to review the detainees’ behaviour over the last two years.
He said: "The basis for consideration would be the reports prepared by the interrogators/investigators and special officers handling the ISA cases. This includes the degree of cooperation extended to the officers, their behaviour, habits, character and openness in answering the relevant charges."
Is Zainal confirming that the May 9 incident, where the five reformasi detainees have accused some 30 Kamunting detention personnel of assaulting Tian Chua and Hishamuddin Rais but which had been denied by the Kamunting detention centre authorities, will be one of the factors for consideration as to whether to extend their ISA detention after June 1?
As a two-time ISA detainee myself, I totally reject that the “behaviour, habits, character and openness in answering charges” of a detainee should have anything to do with whether a person is a national security threat as to justify ISA detention – especially in circumstances where the ISA had been used wholesale to detain persons who pose no threat to national security but only to the political security of the Barisan Nasional establishment!
More serious however is Zainal’s unintended admission that the detention of the reformasi six was unlawful and a gross abuse of power.
Last September, the Federal Court in an unanimous decision held that the police had acted mala fides in the ISA detention of the reformasi activists, who were detained “because of their political beliefs and not because they were a threat to national security”.
In countries where the government has scrupulous regard and respect for the rule of law, the reformasi activists would have been released immediately with the court finding that their detentions were “for an ulterior political purpose and unconnected with the national security”.
Instead, the government came out with the fiction that the Federal Court judgment was against the police detention under section 73 of the ISA while the reformasi activists were now detained under the Ministerial order under section 8, as if the Minister could decide completely independent of police investigations and recommendations.
Zainal’s statement yesterday has made it clear that the Minister’s detention under Section 8 and whether there should be a two-year renewal of detention are based completely on police actions and recommendations which, in the case of the reformasi six, had been ruled as unlawful, null and void by the Federal Court.
For this reason, in the daily countdown to June 1, Malaysians should make their voices heard loud and clear for the end of the ISA detention of the reformasi six and that there should not be any extension of their detention at the end of the month.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman