Condemnation continues to pour in against the government’s use of the Internal Security Act to detain five leaders of the Hindu Action Rights Force (Hindraf) for two years.
Suaram Johor Bahru, Semparuthi Tholagal, Johor PAS Youth, Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM), PKR Johor, DAP Youth Johor and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Chinese Students Council were the latest groups to set out their demands.
“We urge the government to release all the ISA detainees including the five Hindraf leaders. All detentions without trial are illegal, cruel and have political motives behind it,” they said in a joint statement.
“The people should be given (opportunities) to express their unhappiness and the authorities should be conscious (of) their problems irrespective of their race. The arrest of the five shows there is no more space and opportunities for the people to use their rights and to voice their problems.”
The comments add to instant criticism of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s move to sign the detention orders in his capacity as internal security minister.
Hindraf legal adviser P Uthayakumar, lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau and organising secretary T Vasantha Kumar were arrested yesterday afternoon and sent to the Kamunting detention camp in Taiping, Perak, by midnight.
Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan said the arrests, under Section 8(1) of the ISA, were made against the five for carrying out activities that threatened national security.
They have been detained for two years, which bypasses the usual 60-day investigation period. PAS secretary-general Kamaruddin Jaffar also objected to the use of the ISA and said the arrests were a clear indication that the government had run out of ideas on handling the situation created by Hindraf.
“PAS feels that the government should charge them through due legal process in an open court and not use the ISA,” the Tumpat parliamentarian said. “Using the ISA can only cause further tensions and shows that this country is heading towards being a police state.”
‘Cruelty against citizens’
Malaysian Democratic Party secretary-general Wee Choo Keong said the people must defend the right of Hindraf and its supporters to freedom of assembly and expression.
“Such rights are enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR), of which the government is a signatory. It is meaningless for the government to sign the UDHR and at the same time ignore its spirit altogether by detaining the Hindraf leaders without trial.”
A lawyer by training, Wee noted that the ISA was enacted to combat communism and it should have been repealed once the peace treaty was signed between the government and the Communist Party of Malaysia (CPM).
“To be consistent with the peace treaty, the ISA should not be abused to detain Malaysians for exercising their freedoms to expression and assembly as enshrined under the UDHR,” he said.
“In fact, the ISA should have been abolished the minute the peace treaty was signed by the government and the CPM.”
Wee, who was detained for 60 days under the ISA during Operasi Lalang in October 1987, said that such detention is very cruel.
“I strongly feel that it is very cruel of the government to deny its citizens their civil liberty by detaining them without trial. It is a gross violation of human rights.”
He called on the government to either charge the five Hindraf leaders in court if they have committed an offence or release them immediately and unconditionally.
Malaysia Bar: Repeal ISA
The Malaysian Bar too called for the immediate release of the five detainees and that they be charged in court.
The body which represents about 13,000 lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia said that there must be a fair balance between legitimate national security concerns and fundamental liberties.
“This balance may be struck by the use of the justice system and the due process of law,” said Bar president Ambiga Sreenevasan in a statement today.
She added that the government should reconsider its position in the arrest of the five and hold back on making any further arrests under the ISA.
“The Bar once again reiterates its call to the government for the immediate repeal of the ISA as it violates fundamental rights of an individual,” she added.