Chian Heng Kai and Chan Kok Kit: Detention under ISA

This is the 20th anniversary of Malaysia since Independence in 1957, but the basic issues of nation building remain unresolved.

The big question, what type of Malaysian nation we are building, has not been answered with satisfaction, assurance or certainty.

There are significant numbers of those who refuse to accept the reality and fact that Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-religious nation, and that any other basis of nation building can only bring division, disintegration and disaster.

There are significant numbers of those who think purely in terms of race, who equate race with nation, and who disregard the fact that Malaysia is a nation with many races. They do not see or want to see that the only successful and variable nation building policy is one which creates unity out of Malaysia’s racial, religious, linguistic and cultural diversity; but seek instead to impose uniformity through total conformity through all areas of national life.

Malaysia’s diversity is her unique identity, and to lose her diversity through a policy of uniformity Malaysia loses her very identity.

National leaders, entrusted with the task of nation building, must have a longer time-span than just the next general elections. We must be constantly learn from the trials of other plural societies, for instance, in Canada, where the problem of French Quebec has increasingly become more poignant. Even in the United Kingdom, the movement of the Scottish separatism has become more and more a potent force to be reckoned.

I do not want to be misunderstood as advocating separatism or succession in Malaysia, but we will be burying our heads in the sand if we do not try to learn from the problems of other plural societies, to avoid the pit-falls of nation building.

Malaysians, whether leaders or any other level of national life, must be sensitive of the legitimate aspirations and hopes of the diverse groups in the country, and weld them into one Malaysian unity.

Nothing should be done which will harm such legitimate aspiration and hopes, or the biggest loser will be national unity and building.

There is no need for anyone to apologise for raising the question of Chinese education i Parliament. In face, there is a great need for Parliament itself to fully understand the question of Chinese education in Malaysia, which is not a sectioned or a problem of one racial group, but part of Malaysian problem.

In fact, the correct understanding and appreciation of the place and contribution of Chinese education in Malaysia holds to key to successfully build a Malaysia people out of the diverse races.

It is a fairly common attitude in some circles that products of Chinese schools are potentially disloyal or communistically-inclined. If these pre-judices and misconceptions are not eliminated, or even worse, allowed to influence nation building policies, then Malaysia cannot be a united nation and people.

Chinese schools are as good as a nursery to mould Malaysians with a sense of Malaysian conscious, identity and loyalty, as any other type of schools. They should therefore be fully accorded the rightful place in the mainstream of the national educational system, and not be tolerated until the time and circumstances are more appropriate to move against them.

Just as no one question the loyalty of an MP or political leader who raise or speak about the problem of Malay poverty, similarly no one should question the loyalty of an MP or political leader who raise or speak about the problems of Chinese education.

This need emphasis because it is clear that this is the main reason why the DAP MP for Batu Gajah, Sdr. Chian Heng Kai, and DAP Assistant National Treasurer, Sdr. Chan Kok Kit, have been selected for detention under the Internal Security Act in Kamunting Camp in Taiping.

When Sdr. Chian and Sdr. Chan were arrested on Nov. 3 together with the two former deputy Minister Abdullah Ahmad, Abdullah Majid, PSRM Chairman, Sdr. Kassim Ahmad and MCA Executive Secretary, Tan Ken Shen, the authorities issued a statement that they were being detained for interrogation in connection with their involvement with communist united front activities.

In his now famous television speech on Feb.4, the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Haniff Omar, attempted to justify the detentions. I am here referring specifically to the cases of Sdr. Chian Heng Kai and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit. There are two sections which are relevant. Firstly, at the start of his speech, he said:

“I believe there are still those who are questioning the arrests of persona-lities who formerly held influential positions in their respective fields and organisations. They are Samad Ismail, Samani Mohd. Amin, Datuk Abdullah Ahmad, Abdullah Majid, Tan Kwee Shen, Kassim Ahmad, Chan Kok Kit, and Chian Heng Kai.

“They were detained because of their involvement in the activities of Communist United Front or in activities which could be regarded as assisting the advancement of the CUF, whether directly or indirectly, deliberately or unknowingly.”

“Saya percaya masih ada yang tertanya-tanya apakah sebenarnya sebab-sebab beberapa orang tokoh yang dahuluny menduduki tempat yang agak berpengaruh di dalam bidang dan organisasi masing-masing, ditahan tidak berapa lama dahulu, saperti;-

(A) Samad Ismail;
(B) Samani Mohd. Amin;
(C) Datuk Abdullah Ahmad;
(D) Abdullah Majid;
(E) Tan Kwee Shen;
(F) Kassim Ahmad;
(G) Chan Kok Kit;
(H) Chian Heng Kai.

“Mereka ini sebenarnya telah ditahan kerana penglibatan mereka di dalam kegiatan-kegiatan Barisan Bersatu Komunis ataupun sekurang-kurangnya kegiatan-kegiatan yang boleh disifatkan sebagia membantu kemajuan Barisan Bersatu Komunis samada secara langsung atau tidak langsung; samada dengan sengaja atau tidak sengaja.

The other section, at the close of his statement, states:

“Of the persons arrested on November 2 and 3, 1976 – Datuk Abdullah Ahmad, Encik Abdullah Majid, Mr.Chian Heng Kai, Encik Kassim Ahmad, Mr. Chan Kok Kit and Mr. Tan Kwee Shen – five had confessed their involvement in assisting the Communist United Front. Three if the five had expressed their desire to make statement over TV Malaysia. The other two did not want to confess openly because they still wanted to continue their political activities on their release, while the other one still adheres to Marx-Lenin-Mao teachings.”

“Berkenaan dengan enam orang yang ditahan pada 2 dan 3 Nov. 1976, iaitu Datuk Abdullah Ahmad, Encik Abdullah Majid, Encik Chan Heng Kai, Encik Kassim Ahmad, Encik Chan Kok Kit dan Encik Ten Ken Shen, lima daripada mereka telah mengakui di dalam kegiatan-kegiatan yang membantu Barisan Bersatu Komunis.

“Dari lima orang itu, tiga telah melahirkan keinginan mereka untuk membuat kenyataan di Television Malaysia. Dua tidak mahu mengaku secara terbuka kerana masih ingin meneruskan kegiatan politik mereka tatkala dibebaskan nanti, dan seorang lagi masih berpegang kepada pengajaran Marx-Lenin-Mao.”

It is obvious that in referring to the “two who did not want to confess openly”, the IGP was referring to Sdr. Chian Heng Kai and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit.

The smear and inference unanimously drawn by all was that Sdr. Chian and Sdr. Chan had privately confessed their involvement with CUF activities, but cowardly did not want to do so publicly because of their intention to continue their activities on their release.

That this was a unanimous conclusion and inference can be seen from the front-page headlines of the Malaysian newspapers. Thus, Utusan Malaysia carried the front-page headline:” 5 DARINY MENGAKU TERLIBAT”; New Straits Times had the front-page headline:” I Confess – by five of these” with the photographs of the six detained in November 2 and 3 below the headlines; Nanyang Siang Pao headlined:” Five Politicians Arrested Last Year confess Involvement with CUF”.

Mrs. Chian Heng Kai and Mrs. Chan Kok Kit met their husband in Kamunting Detention shortly after and both denied to their wives that they had ever confessed involvement with CUF activities.

On Feb. 23, I received a letter from Sdr. Chian Heng Kai written on 7th Feb., denying categorically that he and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit had ever been involved in any CUF activities, or made any such confession. Copies of this letter are I am sure in the Special Branch files.

In his letter, Sdr. Chian said that during detention, he made it very clear to the Special Branch officers he was not a member, nor supporter or sympathizer, of the MCP; that he had never received any publicity material from the communist; and that all his actions and speeches had never been intended to assists the communists.

On 3rd March, I met the IGP, Tan Sri Haniff Omar, to clarify his TV statement. The IGP denied that he had stated or implied that Sdr. Chian and Sdr. Chan had confessed to the Special Branch that they had been involved in CUF activities.

Why then are Sdr. Chian and Sdr. Chan detained, Is it, to use the IGP’s own words, “ activities which could be regarded as assisting the advancement of the CUF, whether directly or indirectly, deliberately or unknowingly.”

Have we reached the stage where members of Parliament or political leaders can lose their freedom and civic rights not because of any involvement with CUF activities, but because “their activities could be regarded as assisting the advancement of CUF, whether directly or indirectly, deliberately or unknowingly.”?

A person who practises corruption can be brought into this category of being involved in “activities which could be regarded as assisting the advancement of the CUF, whether directly or indirectly, deliberately or unknowingly.” Similarly, a person who criticises corruption could also be brought the same rubric of being involved in ” activities which could be regarded as assisting the advancement of the CUF, whether directly or indirectly, deliberately or unknowingly.”.

Similarly, anyone who criticises the government because of economic mismanagement, rampant poverty, abuse of powers, exploitation of workers and peasants, can easily be roped within the category of “activities which could be regarded as assisting the advancement the CUF, whether directly or indirectly, deliberately or unknowingly .”

One’s involvement and association with the CUF, it would appear, does not rest on the need for objective evidence, but a subjective belief of the police or the political masters.

So long as the political masters or the police personnel concerned want to keep someone locked away, and is prepared to believe that his activities “indirectly,”unknowingly” help the CUF, it is enough.

Is this the respect for law, the rule of law, which the Barisan Nasional leaders prate about at home and at international forums?

A study of the grounds of detention of Sdr. Chian Heng Kai and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit given by the Special Branch shows that neither of them are being charged of “directly” or “deliberately” being involved in activities of the Communist Front.

In the “Facts of Allegation” – “Butir-butir Tuduhan” – preferred by the Special Branch to justify their “Grounds of Detention” against both Sdr. Chian and Sdr. Chan are their alleged speeches at public rallies, party functions and meetings.

Some of these allegations are completely untrue, or distorted, clearly based on suspect reports made by police spies sent to party meetings and function. The majority of the “facts of allegation” concern their advocacy of Chinese education issues, over a period from 1971 to 1976, which are completely within the bounds of the law and the Constitution.

In view of the fact that all the allegations against Sdr. Chian and Sdr. Chan are on what they said from 1971 to 1976, if what they had said had exceeded the limits permitted by the law and the Constitution, then they should be charged in Court. This will also prevent police informers and spies from farming innocent persons with trumped-up reports of untrue speeches in order to prove their worth.

One basic reason the Government had given in defence of the Internal Security Act which permit trial without detention is that it is impossible to get witnesses to testify against the advocates of violence, and that the ISA is needed to plug this defect. Here, the ISA is being used as the substitutes of the ordinary laws of the land, because it is convenient and expedient. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!

Sdr. Chian and Sdr. Chan have been politically victimised, not because they had transgressed the law or the Constitution, nor because they had been involved with the CUF for which the Special Branch has no single shred of evidence, but because firstly, their consistent, though lawful and constitutional advocacy of Chinese educational issues, and secondly, they were sacrificed on the altar of UMNO intra-party in-fighting.

The unwarranted and unjustified detention of Sdr. Chian and Sdr. Chan is the latest vivid example of the abuse of police powers by these in government to silence and intimidate the constitutional opposition.

In fact, I do not think that there are any activities which could best befit the description of “could be regarded as assisting the advancement of the CUF, whether directly or indirectly, deliberately or unknowingly’, than government actions which seek to silence, intimidate and crush the Constitutional Opposition. For the net result can only be the direct increase in support for the CUF as more and more people turn away disillusioned and disenchanted from the democratic process as a means to bring about reforms and changes. Will the IGP and the Special Branch put under the ISA those Barisan Nasional leaders responsible for such unwarranted and unjustified arrests,

I call on the Government to immediately release Sdr. Chian Heng Kai and Sdr. Chan Kok Kit. Every day they spend in the detention camp is a day of the reminder of the excesses and abuses off police power, and the trampling of democratic rights and human liberties for petty, sectional ends.

(Speech by Ketua Pembangkang and DAP MP for Kota Melaka, Y.B. Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the Motion of Thanks on the Royal Address on Tuesday, 22nd March 1977)