Conditions of detention

(Speech by the Parliamentary Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the Development Supplementary Estimates (1979) during the Committee Stage on April 3, 1979)

In the first development supplementary estimates 1979 for the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Government is asking for an addition $1 million for the
building of the Simpang Rengam Detention Camp in Johore. This follows the revision of the original estimates of $7 million to be spent on the project under the Third Malaysia Plan from 1976 – 1980 to $15 million.

Recently, the Bar Council sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs on ill-treatment of political detainees in Taiping and Batu Gajah detention camps, on poor medical treatments, prolonged solitary confinements, hand-cuffing of political detainees going to hospital for treatment which is degrading and humiliating; deprivation of correspondence and from home, and others. Although the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Datuk Syed Sheh Shabuddin, immediately denied the Bar Council allegations, the denial is not convincing or satisfactory, as it is self-serving.

These allegations of ill-treatment of political detainees in Malaysia, which is not made for the first time, greatly tarnish Malaysia’s human rights record, and should be seriously dealt with by the Government.

I call on the Government to establish an Opposition-led all-party Parliamentary Investigating Committee to inquire into the conditions of political detainees. If the Government claims that there are no ill-treatment of political detainees, then they should welcome such an Opposition-led all-party parliamentary investigative committee, for it would then clear the Government and the country’s name of allegations of ill-treatment of political detainees.

Government should institute prisons reforms to ensure that prisoners are not dehumanized by prison conditions

Under the Third Malaysia Plan, $28 million has been set aside for the building of a new Prison Centre in Kajang. The time has come for a high level inquiry into prison conditions, to ensure that prisoners are not dehumanized by prison conditions. The whole purpose of prison terms reform and rehabilitate criminals, apart from punishing them for their crimes.There can be no justification for degrading or inhuman prison conditions which result in making prisoners more insensitive to their responsibilities as citizens and as human beings. From all reports, the conditions in the prisons in the country are most deplorable; and the time has come for a comprehensive prisons reform. This work should be initiated by a Prisons Reform Committee comprising lawyers, judges, psychologists and penal experts.

DAP wants special Government effort to accelerate intake of non-Malays into Felda schemes

According to Government figures, up till the end of February 1979, the racial breakdown of FELDA settlers is as follows:

Malays 96.5%
Chinese 1.76%
Indians 1.67%
Others 0.07%.

This is most shocking, and shows how FELDA schemes, one of the major government instruments of rural development, had failed to fulfil the NEP objective of restructuring society. The Deputy Minister of Land’s explanation last week that the non-Malays, and in particular the Chinese, are not interested in FELDA settlement schemes, is not acceptable at this moment of time. I have no doubt that if FELDA maintains an Open Door Policy, the Government would find overwhelming non-Malay applications for FELDA schemes.

In the interest of ensuring that government schemes carried out with public expense reflect the country’s racial breakdown, I call on the Government to mount a special effort to accelerate the intake of non-Malays into FELDA Schemes. Otherwise, FELDA would stand out as an outstanding example of government failure in restructuring society.

Call on Government and MAS to halve the internal MAS fares to facilitate cheaper air travel in Sabah and Sarawak

Air services is the most important form of travel in Sabah and Sarawak, where communications are very backward. The Government has a responsibility to improve communications in Sabah and Sarawak, and one of these measures is to ensure cheap air travel in the internal parts of Sabah and Sarawak. By ordinary standards, the MAS air fares for internal flights in Sabah and Sarawak are very expensive. I call on the Government and MAS to halve the fares for the internal flights for Sabah and Sarawak. It is public knowledge that the MAS made profits from the internal Sabah and Sarawak flights. MAS should regard its services in Sabah and Sarawak as a public service, and should not think solely in terms of profits but should take into account the essential role of promoting easy communications in Sabah and Sarawak.

Similarly, a review should be conducted to lower the MAS fares between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak. This will bring West and East Malaysia closer together, and enable the promotion of greater understanding and national unity between the peoples in the two different parts of Malaysia separated by the South China Sea.