Zaid: The public can no longer accept indefinite detention without trial

Source: The Rakyat Post @


Zaid: The public can no longer accept indefinite detention without trial


Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration should be commended for repealing the Internal Security Act. However, he has also introduced the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma, and the Prevention of Crime Act in 2013 that once again reintroduced detention without trial. At left is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. — TRP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 25, 2014:

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad withdrew his support for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Aug 18, sparking many reactions and questions regarding the two as leaders of the country.

The Rakyat Post asked some prominent people about the two and the issue of human rights.

Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng said there had been a little progress regarding human rights under the administration of Najib compared with Dr Mahathir.

“The repeal of annual licensing for print media is a step in the right direction. However, the Home Minister still holds a lot of power and may revoke the licence of the media at any time. The suspension of The Heat is a case in point,” he told The Rakyat Post.

He added, however, the Prime Minister had introduced the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma, and the Prevention of Crime Act last year that once again reintroduced detention without trial.

“We are basically back to square one. Whatever credit that he may have made in repealing the ISA has now been struck out.

“Najib’s administration has rightly abolished Section 27 of the Police Act, but again replaced it with the Peaceful Assembly Act in 2012.”

He said Suaram hoped Najib’s administration would fully respect and protect human rights.

“We want his administration to show political will that his administration is committed to equality, non-discrimination and the rule of law and will fight incitement of racial and religious hatred and the incitement of violence by state and non-state actors.

“Najib’s administration should also not use the Sedition Act any more as he has promised to repeal it.”

He said Najib’s administration must ratify the other six core international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

He added that Malaysia was one of the countries in the world that had ratified the least number of international human rights treaties, on a par with countries such as Myanmar and Singapore.

Malaysian Bar Council Human Rights Committee co-chairman Andrew Khoo said unlike Dr Mahathir, Najib had tried to at least “talk the talk of human rights”.

“Dr Mahathir ran an administration that did not care about human rights, from a civil and political sense.

“Najib has attempted to at least talk on human rights. Walking the talk is another issue,” he told The Rakyat Post.

He said while Najib’s administration had made minor headway, it was still given only “grudging acknowledgement”.

“He took out an act and replaced it with another; the intention to control was still there.”

He said in some ways Najib was a bit more public relations-savvy than Dr Mahathir.

“He is trying to associate himself with a more liberal regime in terms of human rights although the progress is still limited.”

He said he would agree that things were better under Najib compared with Dr Mahathir’s regime.

“We are on the journey in the right direction, but we are still far from our ultimate destination.”

Lawyers for Liberty spokesman Michelle Yesudas pointed out that both leaders had high and low points, although she was much more critical of Dr Mahathir.

“Well for starters, Dr Mahathir put the ‘t’ in totalitarianism,” she said, referring to a form of government that subordinates all aspects of its citizens’ lives to the authority of the state, with a single charismatic leader as the ultimate authority.

Yesudas, an advocate of human rights, said people should not be too eager with publicly supporting Najib, adding people should not forget Dr Mahathir and his grand blueprint of creating a deeply unequal Malaysia.

“Najib was responsible for a record number of sedition charges, only because Dr Mahathir had fully abused the Internal Security Act against his political adversaries

“Najib’s rhetoric towards human rights is inconsistent, but Dr Mahathir was always firmly opposed to human rights, citing illogical reasons such as ‘Asean values’, which was a flimsy excuse to deepen his iron fist rule in Malaysia,” she said.

However, one place where Yesudas said Dr Mahathir had outperformed Najib was in the ratification of international conventions.

“Malaysia had ratified two International Conventions under Dr Mahathir — the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”

The conventions had been ratified on Feb 17 and Aug 4 of 1995 respectively.

She pointed out that Malaysia had also ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities under the fifth Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, on April 8, 2008.

“Najib has not ratified a single one and we are still waiting for him to do so, especially to ratify the conventions against torture and elimination of racial discrimination.”

However, she said the damage both men had caused to the democratic space could not be compared as both had been guilty of waging war with those critical of their administration.

“They have flippantly jailed their opposers, criminalised political dissent and were not ashamed of abusing mainstream media for their benefit,” claimed Yesudas.

Former Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said Najib did the right thing in repealing the ISA.

He said the act and preventive detention laws did not help the country in terms of better security or improving public order.

“They were used in the days when the country was under colonial rule.

“The public can no longer accept indefinite detention without trial.”

He pointed out that Dr Mahathir was just using this repeal as an excuse to criticise Najib.

“Since the PM is eager to transform the country into a developed state, it means we have to change our governance and our laws.”

Dr Mahathir had recently accused Najib of giving in too much to the Opposition’s wishes, such as abolishing the ISA.

His criticism came ahead of the Umno general assembly scheduled for Nov 25 to Nov 29.

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