Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 27 Aug 2018

The hunger strike by 160 detainees under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) 2012 at Sungai Buloh prison who are demanding the government abolishes the detention-without-trial Act, reminds me of the hunger strike by Operation Lalang detainees in 1988. I shall never forget the passionate plea by the late Karpal Singh at his habeas corpus hearing then that “a person’s freedom must be attended to EXPEDITIOUSLY…”

When we treat this question of a person’s liberty as seriously as it should be, we can see that the feet dragging by the new PH government to fulfil their election promise to do away with detention-without-trial laws is completely inexcusable. When a person is detained without trial, that is a violation of the RULE OF LAW. The Prime Minister said he would abide by the rule of law when he executed the charges against the villains in the 1MDB scandal as soon as he came into office.

Well, detention without trial such as the detainees under Sosma are subjected to, is a violation of international human rights. The late Karpal Singh would certainly not have put up with more than 100 days of the existence of such despicable laws in a country that is supposed to be ruled by a coalition that he belonged to. Knowing him and his principles, he would have wanted such reforms to be executed expeditiously, not even as long as 100 days.

Freedom is not just another word for nothing much to do for the new PH government, freedom is the most precious human right that cannot be traded or put off like the other reforms in the PH manifesto.

From SUARAM’s monitoring, there were even 142 minors detained without trial under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) and another 17 who are detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), as reported in 2017. Countless more were subjected to house arrest under Poca or Sosma, and some had Electronic Monitoring Devices (EMD) attached to their bodies. There are currently more than 1,000 Sosma detainees in the country.

We have consistently maintained that if there are legitimate allegations against these individuals, they should be charged in court in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code or Child Act 2001 and not subjected to detention without trial or arbitrary house arrest orders.

With the on-going hunger strike by the Sosma detainees, SUARAM calls on the PH government to prioritise the abolition of all detention-without-trial laws in this country and return us to a state that truly respects the rule of law. 

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