There are at present 88 persons detained under the Internal Security Act

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the launching of the cartoon book, “Politics in the ‘Horse’ Years”, by Hew Kuan Yew, at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on Saturday, 16th June 1990 at 10 a.m.

There are at present 88 persons detained under the Internal Security Act

I am very impressed by this cartoon book, “Politics in the ‘Horse’ Years” by Hew Kuan Yew.

It is not an ordinary comic book, but a survey of the political, economic, educational, cultural and constitutional developments of the country.

It is however not a political treatise which only the intellectuals and highly-educated can understand, but rendered in pictures for every person, whether worker, farmer, fisherman, taxi-driver, hawker or petty trader, who had a minimal Chinese education, as a reminder of the great political, educational, cultural and constitutional events in the country.

It will also be an excellent source material, in easily understandable pictures, of the political challenges facing the people at this important juncture of our national life.

This 150-page cartoon book is divided into nine sections, such as on judiciary, human rights, education, culture, religion, economic, scandals and elections.

Every reader who readers it will be vividly reminded of the highlights in the political, economic, educational, cultural and constitutional developments in the country, to rethink anew of the concerns, dreams, hopes and fears of all Malaysians.

But what is most remarkable is that it is the work of a 19-year old, for Hew Kuan Yew, the author, will only 20 years in another five months.

This shows that Hew has a social conscience, political ideals and the conviction to express his innermost feelings.

During the preparation of this work, Hew had been told that he could be detained under the Internal Security Act, but this had not deterred him. Hew is fired by his opposition to all forms of injustice, inequality and exploitation, and his commitment for a more equal, just and fair Malaysian society.

Hew should be an example, not only of the young generation of Malaysians, but for all Malaysians as well.

In the spirit of Hew’s concern for human rights and justice as amply illustrated in his work, let me share with you some of my thoughts and information about human rights in Malaysia.

During this week’s Parliament, I asked two questions which I think would be of interest to all Malaysians concerned about human rights as well as current developments. I have just received the replies.

The first question, asking about the number of current ISA detainees, elicited a written answer. The Home Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, said that there are at present a total of 88 persons detained under the Internal Security Act, 84 detained at the Kamunting Detention Centre, and four in the Police Remand Centre in Batu, Kuala Lumpur.

The second question was whether CPM leaders and members had been allowed to return to Malaysia following the Haadyai Peace Agreements concluded between CPM and the Malaysian Government. Dr. Mahathir’s reply is as follows:

“Setakat ini kita masih belum menerima sebarang permohonan dari mana-mana bekas pemimpin dan ahli-ahli Parti Kominis Malaya (PKM) yang ingin memohon untuk kembali ke Negara ini. Dengan demikian kita tidak dapat memastikan bilangan mereka seperti yang dimaksudkan oleh Ahli Y.B. Sepertimana yang telah dimaklumkan dalam siding lalu Dewan ini, semua permohonan-permohanan sedemikian adalah tertakluk kepada saluran undang-undang dan peraturan Negara dan proses tapisan dari segi keperluan keselamatan.”

As there is still no CPM returnees, I find Dr. Mahathir’s reply that there are at present 88 ISA detainees most alarming. This does not include the three Sabahans who, according to the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Hanif Omar, were arrested at the end of last year on the grounds of being involved in a plot to take Sabah out of Malaysia.

Having been an ISA detainee twice myself, I regard such allegations with considerable skepticism.

Malaysia’s human rights record is not very good, and this is one reason why Malaysia is again the subject of a petition by four United States organizations asking the United States Government to withdraw the GSP privileges.

I hope that this book by Hew will help Malaysians to understand or remember the areas where human rights had been grossly violated and needed to he restored, so that we can hold our heads high both inside and outside the country.