50 CONTROVERSIAL YEARS OF THE ISA – THE ISA MUST BE ABOLISHED, NOT AMENDED

GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA- PRESS STATEMENT: 26th July 2010

 

50 CONTROVERSIAL YEARS OF THE ISA –
THE ISA MUST BE ABOLISHED, NOT AMENDED

50 Years of the ISA
On 1 August, the Internal Security Act (ISA) will have been in existence for 50
years. The ISA was enacted in 1960 on the premise that it was needed to address
the threat posed by the Communist movement. The original Act incorporated
various mechanisms to prevent its abuse, including provision for judicial
review. A promise was also made that it would be used solely to counter the
armed Communist insurgency. Eventually the Communists laid down their arms, but
the ISA remained on the books, and is still in force today. It was even
“enhanced” in 1989 when the provision of judicial review was removed, rendering
it even more unjust and controversial.

The scope of the ISA has also been broadened; the list of its “victims” has
grown ever longer. Over the years it has been used to detain people said to be
members of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), KMM (Malaysian Militant Group), the Al-Maunah
and Al-Arqam groups, Shiah adherents, political activists, reform activists,
students and human rights activists. It has even been used to detain people
alleged to have forged identity cards, cloned telephones, made counterfeit coins
and harbored illegal immigrants – cases which have been considered very
controversial.

The ISA has become a ready tool to be used in place of professional, thorough
and painstaking investigation by the police. In addition, the reasons and
process of arrest under the ISA, as well as the methods of interrogation used,
have often clearly contravened humanitarian and religious principles. In short,
the entire set-up is riddled with controversy. Every arrest made under the ISA
represents a failure on the part of the police to conduct investigations which
fulfill the criteria required by the Attorney General to proceed with
prosecution. This collaboration between the police and the Home Ministry to
curtail the proper process of justice is in itself a gross injustice, by any
standard.

The ISA has also long been used by the ruling coalition to suppress political
dissent. It has been used to punish critics, to try and silence dissenting
voices, cover up their corrupt and unethical practices, and deflect pressure
from the international community. All this is done in the name of “national
security”, but instead constitutes a deliberate hobbling of the country’s system
of justice. To their way of thinking, the interests of national security
override the principles of justice, and this in itself is controversial.

THE ISA SHOULD BE REPEALED WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT
Facing widespread criticism both at home and abroad – the ISA has badly damaged
Malaysia’s reputation – the government has finally proposed to review the ISA.
However, it is clear that they have no intention of relinquishing this
formidable and invaluable crutch of power. They are going all out to sell the
idea of amendment, rather than repeal. Considering the history of the ISA, it
seems very likely that these amendments will be minor and merely cosmetic, and
will not achieve anything in terms of removing its elements of injustice and
abuse of human rights.

At the present time, 16 people are still being detained under the ISA. The
longest-standing detainee is Shamsuddin Sulaiman, alleged to be a member of JI,
who has been detained for more than 8 years. The newest detainee, arrested on 15
July 2010, is Fadzullah Bin Abdul Razak, alleged to be a terrorist. Since April
2009, a total of 12 people have been detained under the ISA. This is despite the
fact that in April 2009 the Prime Minister announced that a number of ISA
detainees would be released and the ISA itself reviewed.

The review of the ISA has been limited to only five aspects, and the proposed
amendments to the Act, promised for more than a year, have yet to be tabled in
Parliament. The five aspects are: detention without trial; the broad powers of
the minister; the length of detention allowed; the rights and treatment of
detainees; and the public perception that the ISA is used as a tool of political
oppression. GMI would like to expand on these five aspects.

a) Detention without trial
Detention under the ISA is not protected by effective judicial review. The
court only allows a challenge to be mounted based on technical grounds,
that is, habeas corpus; there is no avenue to challenge the grounds of arrest.
In many cases there has been no sound reason to invoke the ISA, since the
charges could have been dealt with under existing criminal laws.

b) Powers of the Minister
The power currently invested in the Minister to decide to detain a person for
a period of two years is clearly far too broad. It also implies that the
Minister has no respect for the judicial process or for the executive arm of the
government. It thus fails to adhere to the principle of separation of powers.

c) The Period of detention
The 60-day period of detention is used for interrogation of detainees by Special
Branch officers, who routinely employ physically and psychologically abusive
methods. A person should only be detained if there is evidence against him/her,
and if the police fail to come up with such evidence the person should be
released. As a matter of principle, no-one should be detained for 60 days
without recourse to judicial process.

d) Rights and treatment of detainees
Both GMI and SUARAM have gathered and published extensive documentary evidence
of abuse and torture of ISA detainees. During the 60-day detention period
detainees are denied access to lawyers, and there have been a number of cases
where detainees were not informed of their rights at the time of their arrest.
The authorities justify torture and abuse by saying that it is necessary for the
successful completion of the investigation. In addition, detainees and their
families are often subjected to pressure and psychological abuse.

e) Public perception of misuse of the ISA for political purposes
It is common knowledge that many of those arrested under the ISA have been
political activists and dissidents, or anyone who has criticized the government
and its policies.

GMI is of the firm opinion that amending these five aspects alone will not
prevent the ruling coalition from continuing to abuse the ISA in this manner to
perpetuate its hold on power. The only way to restore public confidence would be
to repeal the ISA, ensure that police carry out their investigations in a
professional manner, ensure that judicial oversight is not excluded, and for the
government to uphold norms and principles of justice and human rights.

The People’s Role in Repealing the ISA
Public pressure in demanding the repeal of the ISA is crucial. The importance of
the support and active engagement of the people, regardless of political
affiliation, religion or ethnic and social background, cannot be overstated. The
Abolish ISA Rally held on 1 August 2009 was witness to the effectiveness of such
broad public participation.

Accordingly, GMI will continue to invite the people to play an active role in
this campaign. To mark the 50th anniversary of the ISA, GMI is organizing a
series of events, among them are:

1. Arts Night: “Detention without Trial”, to be held on 24 July 2010, at the
MBPJ Multipurpose Hall in Jalan Nuri, Section 7, Kota Damansara, starting at 8
pm.

2. Distribution of leaflets simultaneously in Kuala Lumpur and state
capitals, on 1 August.

3. Candle-light vigils to be held simultaneously at locations around the
country, also on 1 August.

4. The People’s Demands
GMI will never compromise in the issue of detention without trial. All Acts
which allow or have resulted in oppression, torture and abuse of people should
have no place on the statute books, and should be abolished without delay.

All groups and organizations which are part of the GMI coalition are urged to
give their support to the demands listed below, in an effort to maximize support
from all partners.

We 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),
with immediate effect. All of these laws go against the spirit of the Federal
Constitution, as well as contravene Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (1981). This appeal is in keeping with similar
recommendations made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) and
the Malaysian Commission for Human Rights (SUHAKAM), as well as by various other
human rights organizations such as Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights
Watch (HRW), the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), and the Islamic
Human Rights Commission (IHRC).

2. Either releases, or charges in an open court, all those currently detained
without trial.

3. 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. Utilize instead existing criminal laws such as the following:
a. Section 489B of the Penal Code: counterfeiting money;
b. Section 56 of the Immigration Act: falsifying passports;
c. Section 298A of the Penal Code: issuing statements or spreading rumours
to incite religious hatred;
d. Section 499 of the Penal Code: issuing statements to incite racial hatred;
e. Section 499 of the Penal Code: distributing false information; or
f. Chapter VIA of the Penal Code: terrorist offences.

7. 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 a Royal Commission to conduct investigations.

8. Debates the SUHAKAM Annual Reports in Parliament and implements its
recommendations.

9. 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.

Released By,
Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI)

Press release: 21 July 2010

Press release: 21 July 2010

SUARAM’s 2009 Human Rights Report:
Najib’s First Year as PM Tarnished by Culture of Impunity, Heightened Intolerance, and Resistance to Change

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) released its “Malaysia Human Rights Report 2009:
Civil and Political Rights” in Kuala Lumpurtoday, 21 July 2010.

SUARAM’s report highlights several key trends in human rights in 2009, including: (1) the increasingly serious and repeated cases of abuses of power by the police and law enforcement agencies with impunity; (2) the heightened intolerance towards dissent; and (3) the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s resistance towards reform and greater compliance with human rights standards.

1. Increasingly Serious and Repeated Abuses of Power by Law Enforcement Agencies At its launch, SUARAM noted the serious and repeated abuses of power – not only by the police, but now increasingly rampant in other law enforcement agencies, such as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

SUARAM also noted that there were at least two international reports published in 2009, exposing the collusion of Immigration Department authorities in the trafficking of refugees to the Malaysia-Thailand border.

8 Deaths in Custody in 2009
In 2009, there were 7 deaths in police custody, according to official statistics. Another death occurred in the custody of the MACC on 16 July 2009, when Teoh Beng Hock, an aide of a politician from the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), fell from the 14th floor of the MACC building when he was there for questioning by the Commission.

While deaths in police custody have been a major problem in previous years, this was the first time that a death occurred in the MACC’s custody. Still, the MACC has also had a tarnished record in the past. In 2007, SUARAM documented the case of a man who died three weeks after being brutally assaulted during an interrogation by officers of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), as the anti-corruption body was then known.

The recent case of alleged torture of former Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) officer Tharmendran by military intelligence officers in connection to the theft of two jet engines is a manifestation of the systemic problem of torture, abuse of power and culture of impunity in the country. Tharmendran claimed that he was
hit with a golf stick, forced to strip and stand on a block of ice to an hour at a time, and threatened with death.

The fact that Malaysia has to date refused to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) despite being repeatedly urged to do so only goes to show that the government accepts torture as a form of punishment in this country!

88 People Shot Dead by the Police in 2009
Equally as worrying are the cases of deaths caused by police shooting, which have occurred rampantly with impunity. 88 people were shot dead by the police in 2009, with not a single police officer known to be held accountable for any of those deaths. The high number of deaths caused by police shootings in 2009 is
indeed alarming, considering that there were only 13 such cases, according to official sources, in 2007.

These cases continue to occur at an alarming rate in 2010, including in the case of 15-year-old Aminulrasyid who was shot dead by the police on 26 April 2010when he was in a car in Shah Alam, Selangor. As recent as 5 July 2010, another case was reported, where four suspected robbers were shot dead by the police at the
residence of an executive councilor of the state of Pahang.

2. Heightened Intolerance towards Dissent
In 2009, there were mass arrests of participants of public peaceful assemblies in numbers which significantly exceeded those in previous years, signalling the government’s increasing intolerance of dissent. Close to a thousand people were arrested by the police for various acts of peaceful protest, including by holding candlelight vigils, wearing black and even participating in a hunger strike!

Close to a Thousand Arrested during Peaceful Assemblies in 2009 In May alone, 167 people were arrested in relation to protests against the unconstitutional takeover by the BN of the Perak state government. On 1 August 2009, 589 people, including minors, were arrested during the massive anti-ISA rally in Kuala Lumpur– possibly the greatest number of persons arrested in a single public assembly in recent years.

Opposition and Critics of the Government Targeted for Harassment
Opposition politicians, critics of the government and media (both of the opposition and independent ones) have also been attacked and harassed, using repressive laws such as the Sedition Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act throughout 2009 despite the initial show of commitment towards free speech by Najib Razak when he announced the lifting of the ban on opposition mouthpieces Suara Keadilan and Harakah on the very first day of his premiership.

Freedom of speech and expression, especially that of opposition politicians and critics of the government, has become one of the most seriously and frequently violated human right in Malaysia, and this trend has continued in 2010. Mouthpieces of the opposition political parties – Suara Keadilan, Harakah, and Rocket – were all given show-cause letters in the month of July in 2010.

3. BN Government’s Resistance to Change, More than a Thousand Still Detained
without Trial
Despite the continued momentum of demands for change and better compliance with human rights principles, the BN government has continued to resist change. Despite growing calls for the ISA to be abolished, for example, the government has continued to detain people without trial throughout the year.

At the end of the year, there were nine ISA detainees still incarcerated without being tried in the courts, while more than a thousand people were still being held under the two other detention-without-trial laws, the Emergency Ordinance and the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Even recommendations made by commissions set up by the government, for example the Royal Commission on the Police and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), have mostly failed to be implemented by the government to date.

Malaysia’s human rights record was reviewed by the international community under the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review. During this review, the Malaysian government received numerous recommendations from United Nations member states to improve its human rights record, including by abolishing all detention-without-trial laws, respect freedom of expression, and recognise the status and rights of refugees. However, most of the more substantial of these recommendations were not accepted by the Malaysian government.

This reluctance to heed the international community’s calls, nevertheless, did not stop Malaysia from seeking election into the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2010.

4. Increasing Human Rights Awareness: Biggest Anti-ISA Demonstration Yet
Despite the increase in human rights violations in 2009, SUARAM nevertheless noted the rise in human rights awareness in the country. This was perhaps most evident in the biggest ever anti-ISA demonstration held in Kuala Lumpur on 1August 2009, which was attended by more than 30,000 people. Encouraged by the
groundswell of popular calls for change, SUARAM stressed that it will continue to work towards keeping up this momentum with the aim of improving the situation of human rights in the country.

5. SUARAM’s Report Launch Gives Voice to Victims of Detention without Trial
Continuing its tradition of giving voice to victims of human rights violations, SUARAM invited Mat Sah Satray (former ISA detainee, 2002-2010) and the parents of Jagendran Panir Selvam (a minor who was detained without trial under the Emergency Ordinance from January to March 2010, and is currently held under
restricted residence) as guest speakers at the launch of its report.

6. Demands Reiterated
Based on the testimonies of violations provided by Mat Sah and the parents of Jagendran, as well as documentation of numerous cases in previous years, SUARAM strongly urged the government to repeal all detention-without-trial laws, pointing out that these legislations severely violate fundamental human rights.
SUARAM also reiterated several other longstanding demands to the government including:

1. The immediate setting up an independent and effective oversight monitoring body to ensure accountability in the police force and other law enforcement agencies;
2. The repeal of repressive legislations and/or provisions in laws which undermine freedom of speech, expression and assembly, namely the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Sedition Act, and Section 27 of the Police Act;
3. The recognition of the status and rights of refugees and asylum seekers;
4. The ratification of all remaining core international human rights treaties, noting that Malaysia has only ratified two of the nine core treaties – and even so, with reservations; and
5. The strengthening of SUHAKAM’s independence and effectiveness, and the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.

In response to the increasingly serious human rights abuses and the heightened intolerance towards dissent and opposition as witnessed in 2009 and 2010, SUARAM noted that it will also heighten its role as a watchdog of the BN federal government as well as both the BN and Pakatan Rakyat state governments, and further warned that failure to heed the increasingly popular calls for human rights compliance would result in the unpopularity and eventual downfall of any government in power.

Mohamad Fadzullah – Yet another Victim of the ISA!

PRESS STATEMENT: 17 JULY 2010

GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA & SUARA RAKYAT MALAYSIA (SUARAM)

Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) are astonished to learn of the latest arrest under the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA) in the midst of Government talks on amending the Act. GMI condemns the new arrest under the ISA. To invoke the ISA against this individual is absolutely against the fundamental principles of human rights, justice and international human rights standards.

Mohamad Fadzullah Bin Abbul Razak, 28, was arrested under the ISA on 15th July 2010 as he was returning to Malaysia from Thailand. He is alleged to be involved in international terrorist networking.

GMI strongly condemns the new arrest under the ISA. The Government must guarantee safety of the detainee and he should be allowed legal assistance immediately. Under the ISA, detainees can be held for up to 60 days in secret locations and in solitary confinement, often in a windowless cell where they lose all sense of time and are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Detainees have been assaulted; forced to strip; deprived of sleep, food and water; told that their families would be harmed; and subjected to prolonged aggressive interrogation to force confessions or obtain information.

GMI believes that the new detention may have been initiated in response to international pressure on terrorist threats in Malaysia. However, nothing can be confirmed at this juncture. Using ISA to confirm this by means of possibly forcing confessions or creating unproven plots and links is unjust and unscrupulous. GMI values that the security of the country is of utmost importance and does not condone any terrorist activities, but one’s entitlement to a fair trial should not be deprived on any basis. If the Government has evidence against the suspect, we urge the government to charge him in an open court; otherwise, he should be released without any delay and unconditionally. Accusing someone of committing crime without producing credible evidence is slanderous; detaining someone without trial, and not giving him a chance to defend himself is barbaric!

It is a shame that the Government is again practicing double standards on issues related to ISA. On one hand, it plans to review the ISA but on the other hand, new detention is carried out discreetly as no prior announcements were made. This incident exhibits yet again the true colours of the ISA, which is extremely arbitrary and has been abused in the pretext of national security. It was previously confirmed that the ISA is only a political tool used to silence dissidents and criticisms against the government. We demand the government to release all detainees immediately or charge them in open court.

GMI and SUARAM urge the people of Malaysia to demand for the release of all ISA detainees and for the abolition of the ISA once and for all. Let us fight for our rights and for a better Malaysia without the ISA which allows detention without trial.

Abolish the ISA!!!

Release all ISA detainees!!!

Close KEMTA!!!

Released by,

Nalini.E

GMI Secretariat and SUARAM Coordinator

FREE WATER IS POPULIST AND IRRESPONSIBLE

By Dr Kua Kia Soong, Director of SUARAM, 13 July 2010
The current spat between BN and PR leaders regarding the budgetary “possibility” of providing free water to consumers is missing the point raised by environmentalists when we were opposing the Sungai Selangor dam.
It’s Water Demand Management Stupid!
Certainly, a precious social utility such as water should belong to the people and not to private interests. Water is a public good and it is the people’s right to have access to clean water and to ensure that the sources of clean water are properly protected.
The Sungai Selangor dam has not only destroyed irrevocably a region of pristine natural environment in Kuala Kubu Baru but has destroyed the ancestral homes of the Orang Asli who lived there. Selangor rate payers are now paying the price of the dam.
During our campaign against the dam, we stressed the urgent need to focus on water demand management. Water demand management includes targets set for per capita water use, and reductions in non-revenue water.
Giving away free water makes a mockery of water demand management. In fact, water demand management would involve making sure those who wash their precious cars everyday pay MORE for the luxury.
That may not be populist but it is what we expect of a responsible government that protects our resources and does not tell us that we need to pay for yet another dam because the current reservoirs are inadequate.
When Malaysians start collecting our plentiful rain water for their gardening and cleaning needs, only then will we be on our way to becoming an  environmentally conscious people and to have a sustainable lifestyle. Malaysia is blessed to be among the countries in the world with abundant rain water yet we are also the worst squanderers of this natural resource.
A comprehensive water policy would include changes to building by-laws, through subsidising the installation of water saving devices in business and residential properties and through giving industry incentives to switch to water-efficient technologies.
 
Selangor Rate Payers Expect Excellence
As the richest state in Malaysia, Selangor rate payers expect the best quality of life and the best standard of governance to go with it. The current debates about whether the state is going bankrupt do not humour us. The Deputy Prime Minister may have his own agenda but the PKR’s own leader, Azmin Ali’s warning to the State Government at the state assembly yesterday that it’s spendthrift ways have to stop does not speak well of sustainable governance in the state. He mentioned an instance of the state government spending RM500,000 on a single official ceremony and that the state reserves have dipped below RM800 million. I still remember the PR Speaker telling off the State Exco Ronnie Liu for spending RM10,000 on durian feasts for his constituents.

Who knows what else goes on…Is this corruption, or do free handouts count as corruption only when they are given out close to an election?

FREE WATER IS POPULIST AND IRRESPONSIBLE

By Dr Kua Kia Soong, Director of SUARAM, 13 July 2010

The current spat between BN and PR leaders regarding the budgetary “possibility” of providing free water to consumers is missing the point raised by environmentalists when we were opposing the Sungai Selangor dam.

It’s Water Demand Management Stupid!

Certainly, a precious social utility such as water should belong to the people and not to private interests. Water is a public good and it is the people’s right to have access to clean water and to ensure that the sources of clean water are properly protected.

The Sungai Selangor dam has not only destroyed irrevocably a region of pristine natural environment in Kuala Kubu Baru but has destroyed the ancestral homes of the Orang Asli who lived there. Selangor rate payers are now paying the price of the dam.

During our campaign against the dam, we stressed the urgent need to focus on water demand management. Water demand management includes targets set for per capita water use, and reductions in non-revenue water.

Selangor Rate Payers Expect Excellence

As the richest state in Malaysia, Selangor rate payers expect the best quality of life and the best standard of governance to go with it. The current debates about whether the state is going bankrupt do not humour us. The Deputy Prime Minister may have his own agenda but the PKR’s own leader, Azmin Ali’s warning to the State Government at the state assembly yesterday that it’s spendthrift ways have to stop does not speak well of sustainable governance in the state. He mentioned an instance of the state government spending RM500,000 on a single official ceremony and that the state reserves have dipped below RM800 million. I still remember the PR Speaker telling off the State Exco Ronnie Liu for spending RM10,000 on durian feasts for his constituents.

Who knows what else goes on…Is this corruption, or do free handouts count as corruption only when they are given out close to an election?