Press Statement: 20th August 2009
Implement the recommendations made by the Royal Police Commission and SUHAKAM on matters pertaining to the ISA, EO, RRA and also Section 27 of the Police Act.
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) expresses our utmost concern on the announcement from the Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein who has revealed that the Government will make amendments to the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Police Act, particularly on the right to hold assemblies. The amendments will be tabled in the October 2009 Parliament sitting with the possibility of approval in the December sitting. He also revealed that the other Acts that will be amended include the Multimedia and Communications Act, the Restrictive Residence Ordinance Act (RRA) and the Emergency Ordinance Act (EO).
SUARAM views that the announcement from the Home Minister is baseless and he should not insist for these amendments to be tabled in the October Parliament session without consultation with civil society and taking into account concerns from the respected civil society organisations that are working on the area of concern.
SUARAM would like raise question to the Home Minister: Why are the amendments to the various acts mentioned above being expedited in such a hasty manner? Are these another form of goodies from the government to the people of Malaysia before the Permatang Pasir by-election?
With regards to the ISA, SUARAM would like to question the need for the Government to make the announcement on specific amendments, especially on the 60 days and the 2 years detention period. What happened to the Review Committee that was formed to review on the ISA? Who are the members of this committee? SUARAM as the Secretariat of the Abolish ISA Movement or popularly known in its Malay acronym as Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI), has never been invited or consulted to be part of this Review Committee. The Government’s announcement on tabling amendments to the act in Parliament comes as sudden.
Building on the positive changes that have occurred in 2009 with the release of 34 ISA detainees from Kamunting detention centre and the 1st August Anti-ISA rally which witnessed 40,000 people of Malaysia who took to the street to oppose the ISA clearly shows that the Government should not rest on these measures but act beyond “a comprehensive study to review ISA”, as stated in its response to the United Nations Human Rights Council in the during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The ISA which was enacted in 1960, have been widely used against those who commit acts deemed to be “prejudicial to the security of Malaysia”, or threatening the “maintenance of essential services” or “economic life”. These vaguely defined security concerns have led to the frequent use of the law against people peacefully expressing their religious and political beliefs, as well as a number of human rights defenders. Furthermore, in 2003, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considered that administrative detention on such grounds, even when in conformity with a domestic law, constitutes a violation of the right to a fair trial by an independent and impartial judicial authority. It consequently considered that the detention under such conditions was arbitrary.
Like the ISA, the EO is another preventive detention law that allows the government to detain individuals deemed to threaten public order. EO detainees are not only presumed guilty by the government but are always referred to as thugs or gangsters. The Royal Police Commission in its 2004 report recommended the repeal of the EO, explaining that “The EO has outlived its purpose and in some instance has facilitated the abuse of the fundamental liberties. The government appointed Royal Commission also recommended repealing the RRA which allows the minister to restrict the movements of individuals. This Act has been mostly used against those who have been released from the ISA, or EO.
The Home Minister also announced that the Government is considering allowing public assemblies to be held at certain gazetted locations and reviewing Section 27 of the Police Act, the provision which requires police permission for any public gathering, a restriction imposed by the Government to limit the movement of individuals in Malaysia. SUARAM would like to refresh the memory of the Home Minister that the proposal for the repeal of Section 27 of the Police Act has been recommended by the Royal Police Commission in 2004, which in its report, the commission recommended the repeal of Sections 27A, 27B and 27C of the Police Act. The recommendation indicates that the police cannot stop or disrupt public assemblies or gatherings in private premises.
The Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) in several of its reports on public inquiries such as the Kesas Highway incident (2001), the Bloody Sunday incident in KLCC ((2006), as well as the Bandar Mahkota Cheras incident (2008), has stated that the ban on the public assemblies is a violation of human rights and this right is also guaranteed under the Article 10 of the Malaysian Constitution. The government should uphold the spirit of the Malaysian Constitution which allows for freedom of assembly.
Finally, SUARAM strongly urges the government to:
1. Note and implement the recommendations made by the Royal Police Commission and SUHAKAM on matters pertaining to the ISA, EO, RRA and also Section 27 of the Police Act. The recommendations made by SUHAKAM and the Royal Police Commission in previous years must not go on unheeded by the Government in its move to amend the related laws;
2. Immediately accept the pending request for country visit to Malaysia by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;
3. Consult civil society organisations, especially those working on issues related to the said laws, and take their views into consideration before any legislative changes are made; and
4. Repeal the ISA, EO, DDA and any other law which violates fundamental human rights.