Detainees’ complaint of abuse shows why draconian provisions in SOSMA must be abolished without further delay

Several of the SOSMA detainees in the LTTE case have complained that they were mistreated, tortured, and intimidated during their detention. Such atrocious abuse is not surprising because it has happened under the previous Internal Security Act (ISA). Now, it is continuing under SOSMA.

The abuse is symptomatic of a draconian law which gives arbitrary and wide-ranging powers to the police. The detainees were not even allowed to be bailed, and even if they are acquitted later, they will still be further detained until all the appeal proceedings are completed. With their continuing detention, the detainees are at further risk of torture and mistreatment.

In fact, during the court trial in the past week, the detainees have been openly mistreated as they were handcuffed and escorted by full-armed policemen clad in balaclava. Is this an attempt to stigmatise them as “terrorists” in the eyes of the public?

This incident further highlights the urgency to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) so that there can be a thorough and independent investigation on such complaints. The police can also benefit from the IPCMC as it allows them to safeguard their reputation and professionalism from false and baseless accusations of any misconduct, unlike now where they have no avenue to clear their names in the public sphere.

Nevertheless, in the absence of the IPCMC, I urge the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and Home Minister to launch an immediate investigation on the complaints and hold any wrongdoers accountable.

In addition, I will submit an urgent question on this issue to parliament so that the Minister can have an open platform to address the issue during the Minister’s Question Time (MQT) session next week. The Minister must provide an explanation to parliament, including what steps have been taken to correct the situation, so that the integrity of the police force is not further damaged.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government must urgently abolish draconian provisions in SOSMA to avoid further misuse and to make it consistent with legal and human rights principles.

Khoo Poay Tiong
Media statement by Khoo Poay Tiong in Malacca on Saturday, 2nd November 2019