Jemaah Islamiah ISA detainees – why are the “small fries” still detained when the JI “big fishes” like Mohd Iqbal and Wan Min Wan Mat have already  been released?

Media Statement (2)
Lim Kit Siang

(Parliament, Saturday): Nine Members of Parliament (UMNO and DAP) from the Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights, led by its Chairman Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department made a three-hour fact-finding visit to Kamunting Detention Centre yesterday on the detention conditions of the 32-year centre.

The Parliamentary caucus delegation visited all the five detention blocks as well as the “Tempat Penerimaan” which is serving as a punishment block  (both “kawasan puteh” and “kawasah hitam”),  met the detainees and inquired into   their complaints and grievances.

As of yesterday, there were 115 Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees in Kamunting, comprising 68 for Jemaah Islamiah (JI), nine for Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM), 22 for counterfeit currency, 13 for document falsification and one for nuclear weapons black-marketing. Two of them are  women.  Among them are  14 Indonesians, three Singaporeans, two Filipinos and one Sri Lankan.

Eight have been detained for  less than six months, 16 between six to 12 months, 27 between one to two years, 25 between two to three years and 39 for more than three years.

The central issue for all the detainees who spoke to the parliamentary caucus was the issue of their release and in particular, the unfairness of the uncertainty  and suspense of the duration of their detention, as their two-year formal detention order could be extended indefinitely.

The JI detainees, many of whom had been detained for more than three years, felt great injustice that the “small fries” are still in detention when the JI “big fishes”, like the suspected high-ranking JI leaders Mohd Iqbal Abdul Rahman and Wan Min Wan Mat, had already  been released. 

Mohd Iqbal, an Indonesian  with Malaysian permanent resident status, and who was said to be the second most powerful JI member after Riduan Isamuddin, or Hambali, was released in August 2003 while Wan Min Wan Mat, alleged to be the financier of JI, was released in March this year.

The JI detainees asked to be charged in court if there is evidence of their criminal offences or they should be  released immediately, as there are among them who are coming to the end of their second two-year ISA detention order, having been  held in Kamunting  for three years 10 months.  There are among them professionals, like engineer, accountant, bank officer, air force officer, civil servant, etc.

Among the issues raised by the detainees from the six blocks were:

Prolonged “punishment”

There is prolonged and excessive punishment of detainees in Tempat Penerimaan  and Block T1 after the December 8 and 9 “riots” last year,  with the detainees alleging that they had been assaulted. Twelve  detainees in  “Tempat Penerimaan” have been confined to the cells up to 20 hours a day for over six months in breach of the Internal Security (Detained Persons) Rules 1960 without an inquiry and which limited  use of punishment cells to five days only for minor offences and seven days only for aggravated offences. 

Welfare support for detainee families

Only 20 detainee families are getting welfare support, ranging from RM70 to RM350 a month.  Another 33 detainee families have applied but not yet received approval.  The monetary assistance are  inadequate to meet the basic needs for the detainee families. One detainee from Sandakan, Sabah had not seen his family since his detention for more than two years as his family could not afford to make the trip to Kamunting.

Restrictions of access to family

Detainees complained that they are unable to touch their family members as they are separated by a wire mesh and fiberglass board.  One detainee had never touched his two-and-half-year boy who was born after his detention.

Treatment of detainees

Complaints  by detainees about treatment in the centre, such as  being hand-cuffed when they are taken to the medical assistant or dentist,  outward correspondence, not allowed to perform their Friday prayers at a congregational meet, no facilities to apply for Mykads, etc.

The Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights will meet  next week when Parliament reconvenes,  probably on Thursday, to prepare a report on the two caucus visits to the Simpang Rengam Detention Centre on Tuesday and the Kamunting Detention Centre yesterday, and to make recommendations to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also the Internal Security Minister.




*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman