51 years of ISA: Enough is enough! Abolish Now!

Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA

Press Statement: 1st August 2011

51 years of ISA:  Enough is enough! Abolish Now!

Today, 1st August 2011 marks the 51st Anniversary of the enactment of the notorious Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA). The ISA was originally enacted to succeed emergency laws aimed at combating the communist insurgency during the 1940s and 1950s. However, it has since been used against those who commit acts deemed to be “prejudicial to the security of Malaysia”, or threatening to the “maintenance of essential services” or “economic life”. The government arbitrarily determines which acts fall under these categories and by using a loose interpretation of the legislation, has detained scores of individuals under the ISA, many of whom were prisoners of conscience, trade unionists, teachers, religious activist and community workers.
We are celebrating 54 years of independence but what is the meaning of it if the state still uses ISA by detaining persons without trial and without any form of judicial process? The draconian act infringes the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), as listed below:
Article 5, Federal Constitution of Malaysia
    (3) Where a person is arrested he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.
    (4) Where a person is arrested and not released he shall without unreasonable delay, and in any case within twenty-four hours (excluding the time of any necessary journey) be produced before a magistrate and shall not be further detained in custody without the magistrate’s authority    and
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
Article 9
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 10
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Article 11
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.
Are We Still In A State Of Emergency To Resort To Such “Emergency” Laws?
The ISA has been kept in use all this time mainly because it is a very convenient tool at the disposal of the government. The ISA itself has served as an instrument of terror of the State and used consistently against dissidents who have defended democratic and human rights of Malaysians. While we are no longer the state of emergency, the gloomy cloud of ISA continues to put us under a state of siege mentality. Even if there is a state of emergency, there can be no justification for a person to be detained for an extended period without trial. Is it any wonder that this draconian law was enacted on the year the Emergency was declared over?
On the occasion of the anniversary of the draconian ISA, GMI also expresses gravest concerns over other existing emergency and preventive laws which also provide for indefinite detention without trial, namely the Emergency Ordinance 1969 (EO) and the Dangerous Drugs Act 1985 (DDA). As of February 2010, 819 individuals were detained without trial under the EO, while 412 were incarcerated under the DDA which amounts to a total of more than 1,200 individuals detained without trial in Malaysia notwithstanding the ISA detainees.
The recent detention of 6 Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leaders namely MP Dr. Jeyakumar Devaraj, Sarasvathy Muthu, Saratbabu Raman, Sukumaran Munisamy, Choo Chon Kai and Letchumanan Aseerpatham shows that the EO is equally draconian and has now been misused by the government to detain political activists. The 6 have been released on 29 July unconditionally because of the continuous and persistent pressure on the government by the brave Malaysians who stood and fought for the release without any fear because the people of Malaysia believe that the detention of 6 is unlawful and unwarranted. Salute to Malaysians!
Torture under ISA
All these years under the ISA, the first sixty days of solitary confinement have been even more draconian than the security laws in South Africa under Apartheid, or even in the Northern Ireland during the war against the Irish Republican Army. In February 2004, 31 ISA detainees who were alleged as terrorists from Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and held at the Kamunting detention camp accused the police of applying 59 forms of mental and physical torture. This includes round-the-clock interrogation depriving detainees of sleep, stripped naked during interrogation, forced to urinate in a bottle, forced to drink spittle of interrogators, beard shaved and burned, ordered to make tea, massage the interrogators, threatened to arrest their family members, kicked and beaten up etc. In an ongoing civil suit of a detainee against the government, former detainee Malek Hussin told that he was stripped naked, kicked and beaten-up, force-fed dirty and stinking water and subjected to sexual abuse.
Every decade has grisly tales of torture to relate. These dark deeds by the Malaysian Special Branch are the scandalous side of “Malaysia Boleh”. The biggest scandal of all is that to date, none of these torturers have been brought to justice, nor have deterrent sentences been passed on them. These cases are only the tip of the iceberg. While the government denies any such acts, it remains very difficult for victims of torture to prove the acts, especially while in detention.
No Progress, More Hypocrisy

To date, more than 30 ISA detainees continue to languish in the Kamunting Detention Camp.  The detainees have been accused of various allegations, including being members of militant groups Jemaah Islamiah (JI), Darul Islamiah (DI), coins counterfeiting, forging fake documents, human trafficking and etc. None of them has been brought to court.
Even yesterday, the Home Minister Hishammuddin said that two people detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for links with terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LLTE) have been deported to Sri Lanka.  He also mentioned that the government is considering releasing the seven Immigration Department officers detained under ISA for their involvement in human trafficking. This  release is due to the Ramadan month. The power of minister and police is ultimately unquestionable!
Since Najib Razak came to power in 2009, the ISA has continued to be used in the same way in the name of national security, ranging from persons allegedly spreading rumours through SMS, to political dissidents and alleged terrorists. In 2011, the government continued its tactic of creating a climate of fear through the use of the ISA, threatening to invoke it upon activists and organisers of BERSIH 2.0 who allegedly asked the people of Malaysia to participate in street demonstrations.
lSA is not only unfair and unjust to the detainee, it has become one of the main root-causes of corruption, abuse of power and police brutality, which the Abdullah administration tried to address with the setting up of the Royal Police Commission. The lack of transparency and accountability and the secrecy surrounding the use of the ISA provide a more than perfect environment for corruption, abuse of power and torture by the police, knowing fully well that they will get away scot-free with absolute impunity.
GMI is disappointed with the performance of the PM, who has shown no hesitation in continuing to invoke the ISA to arrest and detain more people without trial. We have a vast array of laws which provide an adequate legal framework to deal with threats against national security, trafficking activities, counterfeiting currency or falsifying documents which do not by contravene universally accepted principles of justice and human rights. Why, therefore, is the ISA still needed?
Respect the Judiciary

Under the ISA, EO and DDA, there is no space for the judiciary to intervene or review the decision made by the Minister of Internal Security. The lack of judicial check and balance has exacerbated the abuse of power by the police who can get away with impunity. It has also facilitated torture and ill-treatment of detainees. Malaysia cannot call itself a democratic country when there is such a law that permits detention without trial and gross violation of human rights.
Movement to Abolish Preventive Law’s

GMI, in its 10 year existence has succeeded, through its many programmes, in raising public awareness about the injustice and cruelty of the ISA. It has also been able to put continuous pressure on the government by campaigning at home and abroad. As part of an intensive programme to campaign against the detention of number detainees, GMI has produced several publications and pamphlets which have been distributed throughout the country. GMI also organised the biggest and historical Anti ISA rally in 2009 and most recently simultaneous Anti ISA candle-light vigil in 2010 in 8 states in Malaysia.
GMI therefore calls for the following:

1.         Abolish the ISA and all forms of detention without trial; charge all detainees in an open court or else release them immediately and unconditionally.
2.         Conduct public inquiries and investigate all cases of torture reported; make public the reports of investigation and bring all perpetrators of torture, inhumane and degrading treatment of the ISA detainees to justice.
3.         Use the present criminal laws to deal with crimes pertaining to national security. Our criminal laws which provide for a maximum of 15 days of detention are more than sufficient for investigative purposes.
4.         Heed the call of SUHAKAM, the independent body which safeguards human rights in Malaysia, to review and abolish ISA. Numerous international human rights bodies have also voiced the same for many years.
5.         Restore the independence of the judiciary to curb abuses of power by the police.
6.         Ratify the Convention Against Torture, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Abolish ISA!
Release All The Detainees!
Close Down KEMTA!
Released By,
Nalini.E
Secretariat of GMI