Email to Abdullah to immediately  release the reformasi five under  ISA  without having to wait until June 1 as there can be no basis for any extension of their detention  – whether national security, rule of law, good governance or political morality

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaMonday): I have today sent an email to the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi asking him to immediately release the reformasi five, Tian Chua, Saari Sungib, Lokman Noor Adam, Dr Badrul Amin and Hishamuddin Rais  from detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) without having to wait until June 1, the expiry of their two-year detention order, as there can be no basis for any extension  of their detention – whether national security, rule of law, good governance or political morality. 

Today is the Countdown Day Six  for the  reformasi five – whether they walk out of Kamunting Detention Centre next Sunday as free men after 26 months of ISA incarceration or whether they would be locked away for another two years as “national security” threats for which no iota of proof had been produced by the authorities, whether to the Federal Court, the ISA Advisory Board or the national and international courts of public opinion. 

There is no good or acceptable  reason why Abdullah should not immediately release the reformasi five or  why Abdullah should insist  that they serve every second and minute of their two-year formal detention order on top of the two months of interrogative police custody which will only convey the  impression of vindictiveness. 

In my email to Abdullah, I referred to the statement by the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Zainal Abdin Zin reported by Malaysiakini last Friday which raised serious questions about the validity, legitimacy and justice of the ISA detention of the reformasi six (including Mohamad Ezam, currently in Kajang Prison serving sentence following conviction under the Official Secrets Act).

Zainal had said  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."  

I asked Abdullah whether Zainal’s comments meant  that  the May 9 incident, where Tian Chua and Hishamuddin Rais had been assaulted by Kamunting Detention Centre personnel, could be one of the factors for consideration as to whether to extend their  ISA detention after June 1? If so, this is simply outrageous!

In my email to Abdullah, I said:

“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 continued  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  already  detained under  the Ministerial order under section 8, as if the Minister could issue an ISA detention order  completely independent of police investigations and recommendations. 

Zainal’s Friday statement had debunked such a fallacious and schizophrenic interpretation of the ISA by making  it clear that the Minister’s detention order of the reformasi six under Section 8 had been based on police advice, but which had been ruled as unlawful, null and void by the Federal Court. This should be an even stronger reason for their immediate release and why there can be no basis, whether from the standpoint of national security, the rule of law, good governance or political morality,  to extend the  detention of the reformasi six by another two years from June 1.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman