PRESS STATEMENT: 27TH OCTOBER 2010
27th October 2010, marks the 23rd Anniversary of one of the countries biggest political crackdown; the infamous Operasi Lalang, The Operasi Lalang saw the arbitrary arrests and detention without trial of 106 persons ranging from the Parliament Opposition Leader and members of Parliament to trade unionists, Chinese education movement leaders and non-governmental organization (NGO) activists who were working on the issues of environmental protection, women, workers rights etc under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Other victims of the Operation were two dailies, The Star and the Sin Chew Jit Poh and two weeklies, The Sunday Star and Watan which had their the publishing licenses revoked.
Until today, the 1987 mass arrest remains as the pillar of political arbitrariness and injustice in a democratic nation that have achieved its independence 53 years ago. It’s an affront to our democracy and independence that ISA were engineered by the colonial masters continues to be used on its citizens and people for their legitimate political and dissent activities.
This year mark the 50th year of the draconian act being in power with the scope of the ISA broadened and the list of its “victims” has grown ever longer. Over the years the ISA was amended 19 times with every amendment further diluting the fundamental rights and incrementally extended Executive powers and judicial safeguards. In 1989 the government has amended Section 8B of the ISA to deny legitimate legal redress for a Judicial Review. The ISA also since then have been used to arbitrarily detain people said to be members of alleged religious groups, students, professionals, politicians, political and human rights activists and even journalists. The 1987 Operasi Lalang marks the significance of being the single most operation that have detained and incarcerated people from the full spectrum of the political citizens of the country.
The ISA has since become a convenient political tool to clampdown on dissent where the Executive continues to enjoy permanent, unfettered discretion to determine, according to their subjective interpretation on any activity and person as a potential threat to national security and of their detention. The unjust law has also created a climate of impunity and abuse of power with arbitrary powers extended to the police to arrest, detain and torture any person without being subjected to any accountability or judicial check and balance. The ISA in its investigation have often clearly contravened international humanitarian standards and religious principles of humane treatment of a person with dignity.
As such the ISA is contrary to fundamental principles of international law, including the right to liberty of the person, to freedom from arbitrary arrest, to be informed of the reasons for arrest, to the presumption of innocence, and to a fair and open trial in a court of law. The ISA is also prejudicial to development of human rights and democracy with its wider, intimidating effect on civil society, and a marked influence on the nature of political participation, democracy and accountability in Malaysia .
It’s a shame that despite 53 years of Independence from the British Colonial Masters, the government continue to defend the ISA and turning the blind eye on the critics and calls made by many Malaysian to repeal this draconian law. The act reveals the lack of political will to address the view of the people and its commitment to human rights and democracy. This is seen with the futile and failing effort by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to review and amend the ISA that remain a mystery and merely as a political gesture.
SUARAM is of the view that all detention-without-trial laws are a gross human rights violation and goes against the spirit of the Federal Constitution, as well as contravene Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1981). We on this 50the Anniversary of Operasi Lalang hereby demand that the government:
1. Abolish all existing unjust laws such as the ISA, EO (Emergency Ordinance), DDA (Dangerous Drugs Act), and the RRA (Restricted Residence Act AND to release, or charge all those detained under this laws in an open court) with an immediate effect.
2. Close down immediately all detention centres for detainees held without trial, such as Kamunting and Simpang Renggam.
4. Awards compensation to all those who have been detained without trial, for being unjustly deprived of their liberty and denied their due rights.
5. Makes a public apology to all such detainees, past and present, and compensates them for the injustice, abuse and suffering inflicted on them during and as a result of their detention.
6. Investigates all complaints and cases of abuse, torture, inhuman treatment and abuse of power perpetrated on any detainees, past or present; prosecutes those responsible and sets up the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission as proposed by the Royal Commission on Police in 2005.
7. Recognizes respects and restores the proper powers of the judiciary, as an independent body, to provide a check and balance on the power of the police and executive, and repeals all laws which have removed such judicial oversight.