Press Statement: 27 September 2010

Political Cartoonist Arrested: More Government Crackdowns to Limit Freedom of Expression

SUARAM condemns the arrest of cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque (better known as Zunar), which points to the continuing trend of intimidation to curb freedom of expression in the country.

10 police officers from the Brickfields police station, led by ASP Arikrishnan Apparau, raided his office premises at 4pm on 24thSeptember and seized 66 copies of his latest book, Cartoon-o-phobia, which was due to be launched that night.

Zunar’s arrest under the Sedition Act and the banning of his previous 3 books – 1 Funny Malaysia, Perak Darul Kartun and Isu Dalam Kartun, appears to be the latest of the numerous examples of the government’s attempts to intimidate and selectively target certain public personalities to shrink the public space for free expression and discussion, and to silence voices of dissent.

Zunar’s critical stance towards the BN government in his books has made him a target for harassment and persecution by the government. As such, SUARAM denounces this arrest as yet another form of abuse of power by the police, which appears to be acting at the behest of the government in its ongoing attacks and intimidation on freedom of expression – a fundamental right which is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

During the arrest, Zunar was moved to multiple police stations, starting from Brickfields, and finally ending up in Sepang. This ‘roadshow’ was unnecessary since he could’ve had his statement taken at Brickfields and released on police bail. His lawyer was also not given adequate notice for his remand hearing and the remand order was given without his lawyer being present. This is a clear abuse of power; a denial of Zunar’s right to justice; and a contravention of the legal process, where the judiciary is supposed to protect the rights of detainees.

SUARAM therefore strongly urges the government to immediately stop its harassment and persecution of those who exercise their constitutional right to hold and express views and opinions, including those critical of the government and its policies.

The clear violations of fundamental human rights in the government’s ongoing attacks on freedom of expression brings to question Malaysia’s commitment to the very basic and minimal human rights standards which are universally accepted and observed, let alone its obligations as a current elected member of the UN Human Rights Council.

Released by,

Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar

Coordinator

ISA DETAINEE MOHD FADZULLAH HAS BEEN SENT TO KAMUNTING UNDER A TWO YEAR DETENTION ORDER

SUARA RAKYAT MALAYSIA GERAKAN MANSUHKAN ISA

PRESS STATEMENT: 13 SEPTEMBER 2010

Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) strongly condemn the two-year detention order of Mohamad Fadzullah Bin Abdul Razak made by the Home Minister. Fadzullah was transferred to Kamunting on 2nd September 2010 without the knowledge of his family and lawyers. His lawyers had already informed Bukit Aman on their representation on behalf of Fadzullah.

Fadzullah, 28, was arrested under the ISA on 15th July 2010. He is alleged to be involved in international terrorist networking. But these allegations have not been proved in any open court in Malaysia since the day he was detained under the ISA. In fact, we are doubtful that these allegations would even withstand the test of an open and independent trial.

The Executive order for a two year detention without trial is a gross travesty of justice. Fadzullah has been denied basic human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, namely the right to a fair trial, the right to defend oneself in an open and independent court, the right to legal counsel and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

We believe the invocation of Section 8 of the ISA for a two-year detention period was calculated to impede the lawyers’ effort to file a writ of habeas corpus to challenge Fadzullah initial detention under the Section 73(1) of the ISA. He has not given an opportunity to question his detention under the ISA. This is an old tactic and modus operandi has been used in many cases to ensure that any writ for habeas corpus will be deemed academic since the detainee has been detained under a different Section of the law and by a different arm of the executive government.

On a related development, GMI and SUARAM have been informed that Sheikh Abdullah Sheikh Junaidi (70), a Malaysian who was detained on 11th August, has been released from the detention on 25th of August. He had been arrested together with Mustawan Ahbab (34), an Indonesian, and Samsul Hamidi (34), a Malaysian; both of whom are still serving their 60 days detention under Section 73(1) of the ISA.

Although GMI and SUARAM welcome the release, we view this as yet another selective release and stand strongly with our principal value that no one should be detained under the ISA or any form of detention without trial laws.

Clearly, despite the recent appointment of Malaysia to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the pledge by the Malaysian government to promote and protect human rights vis a vie its plans to amend the ISA remains mere rhetoric and empty promises to the Malaysian Rakyat and the international community. The people of Malaysia are against the ISA, torture and other forms of human rights violations. We demand that the government abolish the ISA and put an end to violations of the fundamental rights of human beings!

Released by,
Nalini.E
GMI Secretariat and SUARAM Coordinator

Government Must Stop Attempts to Undermine Freedom of Expression

Press Statement: 6 September 2010

SUARAM condemns the recent crackdowns by the government which points to the continuing trend of intimidation to curb freedom of expression in the country.
SUARAM is appalled by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s (MCMC) recent charging of a blogger, Irwan Abdul Rahman, for a posting on his blog. The posting, a satire entitled “TNB to Sue WWF over Earth Hour”, earned Encik Irwan a charge under Section 233 (1) (a) of the MCMC Act 1998, for “improper use of network facilities […] by making […] any content that is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in characters with malicious intent”.

The MCMC’s charge is indeed frivolous as it has treated a satirical blog post intended to be humourous as one with “malicious intent”. However, even more worrying is that this case appears to be the latest of the numerous examples of the government’s attempts to shrink the public space for free expression and discussion, and to silence voices of dissent. Other recent crackdowns such as on prominent Chinese radio personality Jamaluddin Ibrahim, and Sarawak Tribune Editor, Paul Si point to a clear and continuing pattern of intimidation to curb freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Malaysia.

Further, SUARAM is concerned over Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s recently announced special task force, set up to monitor online postings that can cause “disunity and racial tension”, which could further strengthen the government’s control over the Internet. The setting up of this task force is also problematic as the record shows that the government’s enforcement of issues of racism has always been lopsided, with UMNO-linked personalities and organisations continuously allowed to make racist remarks freely and publicly without any repercussions or action by the authorities.

SUARAM calls upon the MCMC to drop its charge against Irwan Abdul Rahman immediately. SUARAM further urges the government to stop its intimidation and crackdown against those who exercise their fundamental right to free speech and expression.

Released by,
Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar
Coordinator

The Longest Detained ISA Detainee Shamsudin Sulaiman Released Partially but Many More Still Detained Under The ISA

PRESS STATEMENT: 2 SEPTEMBER 2010

Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) welcomed the release of Shamsudin Bin Sulaiman, who has been the longest detained Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee since 17 April 2002. He was alleged to be a Jemaah Islamiah (JI) member but till now has not been charge in any open court.

SUARAM and GMI find that the release of Shamsudin Sulaiman as only partial because he is still being restricted to move and will be under police observation. Although we welcome the release but we condemn the government for being selective in the release of the detainees. We demand the government to release all the ISA detainees who has been detained without trial.

Shamsudin Sulaiman
Shamsuddin Sulaiman was arrested on the 17th April 2002 and was the longest serving detainee under the ISA. He was sent to the Police Remand Centre (PRC) at Kampung Batu, and was kept there for 56 days. On 13 June 2002, he was transferred to the Kamunting Detention Centre in the state of Perak. Shamsuddin was an Assistant Accountant at the Health Ministry before he was detained under the ISA. He was arrested because he was ‘perceived to be a threat’ to the country. Initially, he was accused of being a member of Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM), a militant group. Thereafter, the Malaysian authorities dropped this charge against him and accused him of being a member of JI, another militant group. He has been held in solitary confinement for eight years, without charge or trial.

The Home Minister said that Shamsudin Sulaiman was not a threat anymore and there was a recommendation for him to be released.

GMI and SUARAM view this development as another ugly episode of the arbitrary nature of the ISA. Neither clear explanation nor details were given to the nature of the threat or national security risks. In fact under the ISA, the Home Minister has no obligation to disclose to the public or the courts the details of the detention or release. He has absolute power to detain a person without trial or proof, bypassing any judicial process as well as to extent the detention arbitrarily. This is a clear violation of rule of the law.

Detention without trial

The biggest argument against the ISA is the fact that it constitutes “detention without trial” which goes against the basic tenets of human rights. Since its inception, more than ten thousand people have been arrested under the ISA. Currently, there are 18 people still detained under the ISA. Under the ISA, a person is detained without trial or being charged. This means the person is not given an opportunity to be heard in court but is kept behind bars although he has not been found guilty of any offence.

No Amendments, Abolish ISA and the other repressive law!

GMI and SUARAM calls on the Government to respect the people’s demand to Abolish the ISA and other repressive laws that allows for detention without trial such as the Emergency Ordinance (Public Order and Crime Prevention) 1969 (EO) and Dangerous Drugs Act Special Preventive Measures 1985 (DDA). The idea of amending these laws is unnecessary as long as it contains elements of detention without trial. All laws providing for detention without trial should go immediately. We therefore demand the government to abolish the ISA, EO and DDA immediately. We urge the government to pay damages to all the ISA, EO and DDA detainees who have been detained unlawfully under these acts and to resume their life that they have lost for so many years.

Released by,

Nalini. E
GMI Secretariat and SUARAM Coordinator

Changes to Immigration Detention Centres Must Respect Human Rights

Press Statement: 26 August 2010

SUARAM welcomes the Malaysian Government’s move to review the management and upgrade the facilities of Immigration Detention Centres. National and international human rights organisations have long raised concerns regarding the deplorable conditions and poor management of detention centres but up until now, the Government has repeatedly denied such claims. By acknowledging the dire conditions at the detention centres, it stands to reason that the Government can no longer ignore this issue.

It was announced that the Government intends to revamp the detention centres within the next 3 months. However, SUARAM is concerned about some aspects of the announced plans which are as follows:

1.      Reinstating RELA to manage security
In November 2007, when the management of immigration detention centres were transferred from the Prisons Department to the Immigration Department, RELA personnel were deployed as the Immigration Department lacked personnel. Mid-2009 onwards, RELA personnel were withdrawn from the detention centres. During the period that RELA assisted in managing the detention centres, there were many allegations of poor treatment of detainees by RELA personnel, including verbal, psychological and physical abuse.

SUARAM is disappointed that the Government has made a u-turn on this decision by now including RELA in the management of the detention centres again. We have repeatedly argued that RELA personnel should not be given powers to act as law enforcement agencies as they do not have adequate training.

2.      Explore alternatives to detention
As most migrants detained in immigration detention centres are detained for flouting immigration laws and are not criminals, detention should be used as a last resort. If there is a need for them to be held for processing purposes, alternatives to detention must be explored such as those currently practiced in Australia, including community detention or case management[1].

Detention should not be the first option particularly when it comes to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, children and trafficked victims. Refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and trafficked victims cannot be deported, and as such should be released.

3.      Security should not be the main concern
Based on news reports, it seems like the Government is more concerned about the security aspect of immigration detention centres rather than the welfare of the detainees. SUARAM is of the view that adequate attention must be given to fulfilling the basic rights of the detainees. These include providing clothing, bedding, adequate clean water, sufficient diet, on-site access to health care, personal sanitary supplies, and daily activities.

In line with these serious concerns, SUARAM calls on the Government to:

  • Stop the use of RELA in the management of immigration detention centres.
  • Stop the detention of refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, trafficked victims and children.
  • Explore alternatives to detention as a method to minimise the use of detention as first resort for those who have violated immigration laws.
  • Ensure that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the management of immigration detention centres complies with international human rights standards such as the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.
  • Hold regular consultations with civil society and stakeholders to openly discuss and receive recommendations on how to improve the management of immigration detention centres.

Released by,
Temme Lee
Coordinator

[1]International Detention Coalition (2009) “Case management as an alternative to immigration detention: The Australian Experience”, at http://idcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/casemanagementinaustralia.pdf, accessed 25 April 2010.