By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, on 30th August 1979:
DAP calls for a Parliamentary Inquiry in to human rights violations in Malaysia following the devastating Amnesty International Report on Malaysia.
The Amnesty International Report on human rights in Malaysia, released in London yesterday, is a devastating document of the systematic violation of human rights in Malaysia. It will mar and maim Malaysia’s international standing and image, Malaysia’s international image as a humane and civilised nation could not be regained not by Government leaders pouring scorn or condemnation on the Amnesty International, but by the holding of a Parliamentary or other form of Public Inquiry into the human rights violations in the country, coupled by a will and sincerity on the part of the Government to put an end to such human rights violations.
The time has indeed come for a review of the Internal Security Act and its repeal, as a citizen detained under the ISA has no recourse to legal safeguards nor has he any opportunity to establish his innocence of the accusations leveled against him. In a situation whether the Minister of Home Affairs has virtually absolute powers of arbitrary arrest and detention, the history of the ISA is a history of suppression of legitimate political dissent and trade union activities, as highlighted in the detention of the two DAP Members of Parliament, Chiang Heng Kai (Batu Gajah) and Chan Kok Kit (Sungei Besi), PSRM leaders Kassim Ahmad, Syed Husin Ali, and the recent MAS-AEU crisis and mass arrest of AEU officials and activists.
The Amnesty International Report stated that the Advisory Board Chairman, Tan Sri D.B.W. Good, had acknowledged to Amnesty International delegates that its recommendations for the release of detainees were seldom acted on by the Minister of Home Affairs. This is in fact an open secret. This explains why detainees have no confidence in the Advisory Board.
But what is more disturbing is the existence of another body, the Federal Assessment Board, which is reported to be chaired by the Deputy Director of the Special Branch and whose members are all Special Branch officers, which seemed to make the Advisory Board’s existence completely irrelevant as this secret Special Branch body appeared to have powers to supersede the Advisory Board, even though the Board is establishment by the Federal Constitution! This is secret government in operation at its height!
The Amnesty International reported on the torture, maltreatment of detainees, and the inadequate medical conditions and attentions, all of which seek to brutalise the lives of detainees.
My colleagues and I in the Dap have many times raised in Parliament instances of such maltreatment of detainees, and the most unforgettable in terms of intensity and length of brutalisation involved, being the reign of ‘whiter terror’ in Batu Gajah Detention Camp from 29th December 1973 to 13 February 1974 which was a biggest blot on the human rights record of the Government. During this 47-day period, the Batu Gajah detainees were subjected to systematic physical brutalities by the Federal Reserve Unit and the warders, leaving many detainees seriously and permanently injured for life.
The medical conditions provided for the detainees are so inadequate that they tantamount to a gross neglect of the detainees’ health. The Dap calls on the Government to allow a Malaysian Medical Association team to carry out a medical survey of the health of each and every detainee, and also to make recommendations on the general improvement of the medical treatment of detainees.
The Government has repeatedly argued that detention without trial is a preventive, and not a punitive, action, but the detention conditions are motivated by punitive purposes rather than preventive, such as the conversation of the Batu Gajah detention camp into a special detention camp since 1977 which imposed solitary confinement of 21 hours a day on each detainee in the cell.
Long-term detention, and there is a detainee held for more than 15 years while over 50 have been held for eight years, is completely unjustifiable whether from the preventive or even punitive point of view.
The DAP calls on the Government to put the ISA detainees on public trial or release them unconditionally.
The Amnesty International made II recommendations to the Malaysian Government to correct abuses of fundamental rights involving preventive detention, torture and inadequate prison conditions. These recommendations include:
• Legislation be introduced at an early date for the abolition of the ISA;
• If the ISA is not immediately abolished, the act should at least be amended to establish an independent and effective machinery to enquire into the legality of detention;
• Effective judicial review be guaranteed to protect detainees’ fundamental human rights;
• Immediate and full open commissions of inquiry into the torture and maltreatment of detainees be instituted;
• The right to privacy and confidentiality of communication between lawyer and client be immediately recognised and implemented;
• The government take steps to end all cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners; and
• The international minimum standard set forth in the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners is recognised and implemented at all detention facilities in Malaysia.
I call on the Prime Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs to give these proposals serious consideration, for they are proposals which all fair-minded and humane persons could endorse and accept.
The DAP will seek to have a debate on the Amnesty International Report in the October-December meeting of Parliament.