Call for a Commission of Inquiry into the conditions in the prisons and detention camps

Speech by DAP Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the Home Affairs Ministry estimates for 1973 on 24th Jan 1973

1. Calls on Government to (a) let the Selangor Chinwoo Association time to set its house in order and (b) advance grant of $500,000 to it to tide over its financial difficulties to preserve Chinese culture in Malaysia

I refer to B.32 (p.275) on Pendaftar Pertubuhan.

On Dec. 26 last year the Registrar of Societies deregistered the Selangor Chinwoo Association. Since them, the court has granted an order directing the Registrar’s deregistration order to be set aside. We understand that the Attorney General has filed a writ in chambers to set aside this High Court order.

I do not intend to go into the legal merits or demerits of these maneuvers as it would be sub judice.

However, I wish to find out why the Registrar of Societies and the Minister concerned could not have given the Selangor Chinwoo Association more time to straighten out its affairs, as reason for deregistration was failure to submit its financial statements to the Registrars.

We know that in the case of the MIC, which has broken its constitution by not having yearly presidential elections for more than five years because of the leadership struggle between the President Tun V.T.Sambanthan and Vice President Tan Sri V. Manickavasagam, the Registrar of Societies has closed an eye. This is also the case with Gerak Rakyat Malaysia of Dr. Lim Chong Eu, which has not held elections of office-bearers in the party as required by the party constitution.

I will like the Minister concerned to explain why the Registrar of Societies could give extensions after extensions to the MIC and the Gerakan, but in the case of a cultural organization, Selangor Chinwoo Association, it should act harshly by not granting them grace period for straightening themselves out.

Malaysia is a multi-cultural society, and the Selangor Chinwoo Association, which has been the seat of Malaysian Chinese culture, is part of the Malaysian culture which it is in the interest of the people and country to foster and develop.

In this case, if the government is truly committed to a multi-racial, multi-culture Malaysia, then it should advance a grant of $500,000 with absolutely no strings attached to the Selangor Chinwoo Association as part of the cultural promotion activities of the government. After all, government funds are extracted from the people and should be used for the interests of the people.

I would also urge the government to withdraw all legal proceedings and give the Selangor Chinwoo Association time to set its house in order.

2. Police action need to smash syndicates kidnapping young girls for prostitution.

I next refer to B-30, Pechahan 1100, Gaji and Wages for a Polis Di-Raja in Malaysia.

In Kuala Lumpur and the adjacent new villages, like Serdang new village, teenage girls and their families live in fear and terror. For a few years criminal syndicates have been operating which specialize in kidnapping young girls to force them into prostitution and immoral living.

These kidnapers carry out their nefarious activities in open and great style. They are very well dressed, drive around in posh limousines, do their kidnapping in the open. If they decided on a young girl who is walking alone in some public place, one of these well-dressed rogues would get off from the limousine, pull the girl into the car while loudly scolding her for running away from the family causing sorrow to the aged mother. The public would therefore think it is some internal domestic squabble of a well-to-do family. In this way, thousands of young girls must have been kidnapped for the past few years.

I am shocked that a few days ago, the Minister Home Affairs told this House that the police was not aware of such criminal syndicates specializing in kidnapping young girls to force them into immoral livelihood.

It seems that the police in Kuala Lumpur are very divorced from the facts of life in the capital. If the police would care to initiate investigations, he would find that there are many homes in Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding new villages who have lost their daughters. This is a very grave social problem, and unless the police can take firm action to smash such criminal syndicates, it is a black mark on the record of the police in maintaining law and order in the country.

3. Call for a Commission of Inquiry into the conditions in the prisons and detention camps

I refer to B. 34 on Penjara, Pechahan Kepala 1100 of Gaji and Upahan. Mr.Chairman, Sir, there has been long-standing complaints that the food, treatment and condition in the prisons and detention camps are very sub-standard.

Prisons should be run as institutions where prisoners are rehabilitated and re-integrated into society as healthy, normal members. However, the conditions in our country’s prisons are shocking, in terms of food, cell conditions, recreation, medical, treatment, and there is hardly any attempt to rehabilitate the prisoners. On the contrary, the prisons are advanced schools for hardening offenders. Our prisons and penal system is basically designed to punish offenders and not to reform them. I submit this is counter-productive and retrogressive. There is a need for an overall reform of the prison conditions, to improve the food, cell conditions, recreational facilities, medical treatment and the philosophy of the penal system in Malaysia. I therefore call on the Government to institute a commission of inquiry to find how the penal system can be reformed into a rehabilitating institution to put erring members of society back to the right tracks, and not as a primarily punitive institution to make the prisoners even more hardened criminals.

There exist widespread complaints with regard to the food, treatment and utter lack of recreational and reading facilities in the detention camps in Muar, Batu Gajah and Taiping. The government should take greater pains to ensure that the detainees are not denied the basic treatment which they are entitled to. I therefore urge the government to have a larger allocation for the betterment in the food, recreational, medical and reading facilities for the political detainees.

I conclusion, I would urge the government to seriously consider the abolition of the internal Security Act and allow all political detainees a chance to clear themselves of government allegations by trial in an open court.

4. United Sabah Action Party not allowed to hold branch meetings and public rallies

Why is the Ministry of Home Affairs obstructing the activities of United Sabah Action Party by refusing to grant them permits to hold branch meetings and public rallies? I am informed by USAP officials that they have not been able to get police permits so far to carry out party functions. Is this what the Alliance mean by democracy? Or is Tun Mustapaha’s control over Sabah so frail that he is afraid of the USAP toppling him in the next elections? I await a clarification.