Detention of Datuk James Wong

I rise to move that the salary of the Home Affairs Minister be cut by $10.

The Minister of Home Affairs wields wide powers to protect the security of the nation. His function is particularly important at this stage when the country faces an upsurge of communist guerrilla activities both in the towns and jungles.

We see however gross abuse of power in the Ministry of Home Affairs which trample on the basic rights of Malaysia, and which can only erode public confidence in the democratic system and provide as inspiration to the upsurge of communist guerrilla activities.

Thus, the government claims that the communists cannot win in Malaysia because there is genuine democracy here. When the Prime Minister returned from his visit to New Zealand and Australia, he said Malaysian students who took part in protest demonstrations against him during his tour, should come back and hold public rallies instead.

But, in actual fact, public rallies have been banned since the last general elections, expect where there are by-elections.

The Minister has great powers under the Internal Security Act, and many are arrested and detained, not because they are guilty of subversion, violence, or activities that would cause racial disharmony, or danger to national security, but because they are the political opponents and critics of the powers that be.

Datuk James Wong’s detention is the most glaring instance of a patriot who was detained under the Internal Security Act, not because he had sought to subvert or overthrow the elected government by unlawful means, but on trumped-up charges to remove a political opponent to the Chief Minister if Sarawak from the active political arena.

This is a gross abuse of power, and I shall deal with this case at some length to show why I am asking for this salary cut.

Datuk James Wong’s detention: Background

Datuk James Wong was arrested by several police officers from Kuala Lumpur at his Kuching home on Oct. 30, 1974. He was informed by the p police that he was arrested pursuant to Regulation 7(1) of the Preservation of Public Security (Detention) Regulation of PPSR.

He was brought to Kuala Lumpur for detention. On December 28, 1974, a Detention Order, signed by the Federal Secretary, Sarawak, Engku Ibrahim bin Ngah, was served on him, and on January 3, 1975, Engku Ibrahim bin Ngah signed a Removal Order under the PPSR directing Datuk James Wong’s removal from Taiping Prison, Perak, to Kamunting Detention Camp, Perak.

On 10th March, the High Court in Borneo issued a writ of Habeas Corpus for the release of Datuk James Wong on the ground that his detention under the PPSR was unlawful.

Immediately after his release, he was re-arrested outside the Kuching High Court under the Internal Security Act, 1960, and flown back to Kuala Lumpur on the same day.

An order of Detention, dated 10th day of March, 1975, pursuant to Section 8 of the Internal Security Act, 1960, was served on him on the same day, together with the grounds of detention and allegations of fact.

The grounds on which the detention order was made reads:

“That you, Datuk James Wong Kim Min have since 1974, acted in a manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia in that you have actively, knowingly and willingly collaborated and assisted a foreign power in its claim over Limbang.”

The Allegations of Fact, signed by the Deputy Home Affairs Minister, Datuk Samad Idris, in the name and on behalf of the Minister of Home Affairs, reads:

Allegations of Fact: That you, Datuk James Wong Kim Min had, during a meeting with the agent of the foreign power in May 1974, agreed to receive the aid of that foreign power to enable you to discredit (which you did) the existing Government of Sarawak and to replace it with a government formed by you and you also agreed that the government so formed by you would arrange for the secession of Limbang to that foreign power; and you further agreed with the said agent of the foreign power to receive assistance from that foreign power to accomplish the aforesaid purposes.”

On April 5, 1975, Datuk James Wong wrote to the Minister of Home Affairs from the Kamunting Detention Camp, asking for particulars of the allegations for his detention.

Datuk James Wong Wrote:

“I regret to have to inform you that the grounds and the allegation of facts supplied to me and vague, inadequate and insufficient for me to make adequate representation before the Advisory Committee before whom I would like to make objections against my detention under the Detention Order aforesaid.

“I humbly submit that to be able to make a proper and adequate representation before the Advisory Committee, I should have the following particulars:

(a) The name of the agent who allegedly met me in May 1974;

(b) The date and place of the alleged meeting.

(c) The Foreign Power concerned.

(d) The form of aid or assistance which I have allegedly agreed to receive.”

The Ministry, in a letter dated 17th April 1975, signed by Mohd. Khairi bin Haji Wan Ali b.p. Ketua Setiausaha, Kementerian Hal Ehwal Negeri, replied:

“Segala butir-butir yang dipinta, sebagaimana yang terdapat di dalam surat tuan itu, adalah butir-butir yang tuan sendiri sedia maklum.”(translation: “all particulars that you have asked for in your letters are well-known to you”

This set a very dangerous precedent for the arbitrary arrest of critics and dissenters, for all that the government need do is to put up trumped-up charges, and when asked to give the particulars of the allegations, state the accused should know about the details himself! This makes a complete mockery of the Rule of Law that a person should be informed of the charges preferred against him.

During the Advisory Board hearing of Datuk James Wong’s appeal, it was said that the “agent of the foreign powers” was Seri Begawan, Brunei, and the time of the meeting was 10 p.m. in the month of 1974, and that he had received $4 million from the Seri Begawan of Brunei. However, two crucial particulars were never supplied, namely the exact date of the alleged meeting and the place thereof.

On 6th May, at Taiping, Dato James Wong made a sworn affidavit that:

( i ) he did not receive a single cent from Seri Begawan of Brunei;

( ii ) that he did not know the Seri Begawan of Brunei personally, and that his last meeting with him was in or about 1965 when he was the Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak and had accompanied the present Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, on an official visit to the then Sultan of Brunei.

( iii ) That he had not met the Seri Begawan since 1965 and had never corresponded with him.

( iv ) That he was never in Brunei at 10 p.m. on any day in May

These statements are made by Dato James Wong on oath, and he could be charged with perjury if the Government has proof, as stated by the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs in reply to an oral question on 6.11.1975 bahawa penahanan Datuk James Wong adalah atas asas dan bokti-bokti yang cukup.

That the Government has not charged Datuk James Wong with perjury is proof that he Government cannot disprove the veracity of Dato James Wong’s affidavit, which means that the government’s allegations of fact for the detention of Datuk James Wong is merely fictional and has no relation with facts.

Dato James Wong detention is therefore not motivated by any threat that he posed to national security, but the threat he and his party, the SNAP, posed to the Sarawan Barisan Nasional.

This cannot be condoned and must be condemned as a naked arbitrary exercise of power, and it is for this reason, that I move that the salary of the responsible Minister be cut by $10.

The Minister should uphold fairness, justice and order the immediate and unconditional release of Datuk James Wong, against which the Ministry could not proffer a single evidence to back up its allegation of facts, while on the contrary, Datuk James Wong has adduced overwhelming evidence in his affidavit that he did not and could not have met the Seri Begawan of Brunei and received $4 million in agreeing to secede Limbang to Brunei.

I will only conclude with the following quotations from Dato James Wong’s affidavit:

“I do not want to see Limbang, a place where my late parents are now buried and where I was born and I had lived for many years, being taken away from Sarawak and Malaysia by any foreign power including Brunei or any persons therein.”

“I none of my speeches both in Parliament of in the Council Negri and outside these Houses, have I advocated the annexation of Limbang by any foreign power.

“I am one of those persons who supported the formation of Malaysia at its very early stages. I have done my best from 1961 to 1963 to bring Sarawak including Limbang into the Federation of Malaysia.”

For his part in help forming Malaysia, he was conferred to the Datukship and the Malaysia Commemorative Medal (Silver).

Finally, he said:

“Although I am now in detention, my views on this point have not changed an iota. I maintain, and I would fight with all my heart and strength to ensure that Limbang shall always remain part and parcel of Sarawak and of the federation of Malaysia.”

(Speech by Ketua Pembangkang and DAP M.P. for Kota Melaka, in the Dewan Rakyat on 9th Dec. 1975 on his motion to cut the Minister of Home Affairs’ salary by $10 during the 1976 Committee of Supply debate)