By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 6.8.1987:
DAP supports the proposal of the Prisons Department Director-General, Datuk Ibrahim Mohamed, that remand prisoners be released if they could not be tried after two years
I fully support the proposal of the Director-General of Prisons Department, Datuk Ibrahim Mohamed, that remand prisoners be released if they could not be tried after two years.
This is because a person in remand for two years would have served a three-year jail sentence, after taking into account the one-third remission for prisoners.
It would be a gross injustice if after serving a normal three-year jail sentence, the prisoner is found to be innocent of the charges for which he was denied bail and remanded.
I do not support the other suggestion by Datuk Ibrahim Mohamed that alternatively, the government should have a separate prison for remand prisoners. This would be a temptation for gross incompetence, inefficiency and injustice whereby remand prisoners may end up for 10 years or more awaiting trial – which should be tantamount to a normal life imprisonment sentence!
The money that would have to be spent on building a separate remand prison would be better spent in upgrading the efficiency of the system of justice in the country, by having more magistrates, judges and court houses.
The long period remand prisoners have to wait before they come up for trial is a blot on the system of justice and the human rights record of Malaysia, and I call on the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Megat Junid Megat Ayob, to give urgent priority to resolve this problem in the shortest time possible.
It is indeed shocking that there could be some 100 remand prisoners at the Penang Prison being held as long as eight years. What is the position in the other states? Have the prison or police authorities have statistics on this for the whole country, or are they completely in the dark?
The Home Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, will be too busy with his Prime Ministerial duties to spare much time or thought to this serious problem, and it is left to Datuk Megat to ‘hold the fort’.
The length of time remand prisoners in our country are held in jail before trial is a scandal, and the gravity of the problem warrants the immediate establishment of a Committee of Enquiry, comprising representatives from the Home Ministry, Prisons Department, the Judiciary, the Bar Council and other public-interest groups, to work out a solution within two months.
The scandal of remand prisoners in Malaysia came to public light following the ordeal of surveyor Mohamed Zainal Hashim, who was remanded for three years in Kota Kinabalu for an alleged offence for which the maximum sentence is two years’ jail! The Lord President, Tun Mohamed Salleh Abans, has suggested that the Government should compensate Zainal and not wait for Zainal to lodge a complaint because the error was made by the authorities. I fully support the Lord President’s suggestion, and call on the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, to initiate action for the government to compensate Zainal for his three-year remand. The DAP will also press in Parliament for the government to make compensation to Zainal for his three-year ordeal.