Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 12 Jan 2020

While our nonagenarian Prime Minister has proactively taken over the Education portfolio – albeit temporarily – simply because he sees that the minister concerned had to be removed and important reforms need to be implemented, may we suggest he does the same with the Home Ministry? For while education concerns the application of so called “soft skills” that take time to come to fruition, the failings of the Home Ministry concern questions of life and death of human beings and the fundamental liberties of Malaysians. Therefore, we propose that our talented PM also considers taking over the Home Ministry temporarily in order to clear these rather pressing issues that confound the Malaysian public. After all, he was also Home Minister during Operation Lalang in 1987.

1.       Wiretapping the PM

The latest revelation that the Prime Minister-of-the-day was wire tapped in 2016 suggests that it could only have been the covert operations of the Malaysian Special Branch who have the technical capability and the gall to wiretap the Prime Minister. Since the revelation of these audio recordings by the MACC Commissioner, we have not heard from the Home Minister who needs to let the country know how it was possible that the PM could have been wiretapped by the country’s secret service. Telecom Malaysia should also explain to the Prime Minister himself how it was possible for unseen operatives to wiretap the PM-of-the-day. It is quite surprising that the PM himself does not seem perturbed by this latest discovery of the wiretapping of the then PM in 2016. While he has said that the revelation of the audio recording is not “unethical”, it might be enlightening for him to explain to the Malaysian public why he does not think it is scandalous that the PM-of-the-day can be wiretapped by the Malaysian “Deep State”. And of course this implies that he has no objection to wiretapping of his own telephone conversations.

2.       Still waiting for justice

While the Home Minister would have us believe that the Malaysian Police are more than capable of dealing with international terrorists, he overlooks the fact that they appear to be clueless about the whereabouts of Pastor Raymond Koh and the other Malaysians who have experienced enforced disappearances. Suhakam has concluded that the Special Branch had a hand in Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat’s disappearance. And more than ten years after the death of Teoh Beng Hock, there are still no criminal investigations into the culpable homicide surrounding this young man’s death. The police have also failed to apprehend the killers of Bill Kayong, the land rights defender. Nor have they ascertained the identity of the other person in the sex video released by an associate of the Economic Affairs Minister who has claimed that the Minister had a sexual relationship with him in a hotel in Sandakan during the by-election there not too long ago. Any home minister with integrity would ensure justice in each of these tragic cases and thus demonstrate his/her intent to clean up the police and related authorities and rebuild a modicum of public trust.   

3.       Warped priorities of the Home Ministry

Meanwhile, Zakir Naik and Jo Lo, refugees from justice in India and Malaysia are proving to be more elusive than international terrorists. The latest example of the Home Minister’s warped priorities is his order to the police to investigate all who attended the 30th anniversary forum of the Hatyai Peace Accord even though these included leaders in the PH government. These cases point to a credibility crisis surrounding the professionalism of the Malaysian police, for whom the Home Minister must be responsible.

The Malaysian Special Branch prides itself on being one of the best in this part of the world but in cases such as the enforced disappearance of Pastor Koh and Amri as well as Indira Gandhi’s daughter, their lack of transparency and professionalism is shocking. The Home Minister, who is responsible for the Police including the Special branch has not shown the professionalism we expect of him.

4.       Unacceptable Deaths in Custody

From SUARAM’s Human Rights Report 2018, between 2010 and February 2018, nine police officers were charged in court with disciplinary action taken against them for negligence or causing injuries or deaths to detainees. In the 20 years of SUARAM’s monitoring and documentation, torture has been and remains a well-documented and reoccurring issue in Malaysia. Incidents of physical violence inflicted upon detainees under remand or during investigation are prevalent especially when there are elements of chain remand or detention under security laws. While evidence of torture can be difficult to ascertain, the gruesome deaths of A.Kugan, N.Dharmendran, S. Balamurugan, and other similar cases continue to expose the extent of physical violence and torture inflicted upon those detained by the police. From 2011 to 2018, there were a total of 104 deaths in custody: 56 “medical” cases, 8 “suicides”, 2 “accidents”, 4 by “blunt force”, 34 “unknown”. These deaths in custody according to ethnicity were as follows: 28 Malay, 14 Chinese, 31 Indian, 5 ‘Others’ and 12 foreigners.

What reforms have been introduced by the new Home Minister since 2018 to ensure that such unacceptable deaths in custody do not happen in Malaysian prisons and detention centres?

Thus, from the lacklustre performance by the Home Minister since he was appointed in 2018, we therefore call upon the Prime Minister to temporarily take over this portfolio and to immediately implement the needed reforms in the Malaysian Police and Special Branch and to solve the cases that have been waiting for justice for so many years.

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