by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday, 6th September 1995:
Government must allow independent visit and inquiry into Tenaganita allegation that every month, four to five migrant workers from the Langkap immigtation detention camp have been admitted to a mental hospital
All Malaysians who protective of the good name and international of the country must be concerned about reports of the high incidence of migrant workers detained in the Langkap immigration detention centre being sent to the mental hospital, Hospital Bahagia in Tanjung Rambutan near Ipoh.
The New Straits Times reported today that five illegal immigrants, including two Bangladeshis, a Indonesian woman and a Myanmar national, are currently undergoing treatment at the Hospital Bahagia.
The Tenaganita memorandum on deaths, abuses, torture and dehumanised treatment of Bangladeshi and other migrant workers at the immigration detention camps alleged that its investigations revealed that every month, four to six migrants from the Langkap immigration detention centre in Perak had been admitted to Hospital Bahagia for psychological problems.
The Tenaganita memorandum said that interview sessions with 20 migrant detainees who had sought psychiatric treatment gave the following reasons for depression:
• Physical contact arising from assault and abuse.
• Valuables like cash and iewellery are taken away and go missing.
• No proper facilities like bed, toilets and bathroom, the food is very limited and workers feel weak and anaemic.
• Diarrhoea is very common and suffering from other diseases like typhoid.
• Death of inmates creates fear.
The New Straits Times report today said that some 30 foreign illegal immigrants, about half of them women, were believed to have sought treatment in the mental hospital since 1990.
These are very alarming figures suggesting that conditions in the immigrant detention camps need a thorough review and improvement.
The Government must take a very serious view of these allegations as they reflect adversely on the conditions of detention of the migrant workers, and should allow an independent inquiry into the Tenaganita allegation that every month, four to five migrant workers from the Langkap immigration detention camp have been admitted to a mental hospital.
The Government should be aware that the Tenaganita memorandum has received widespread international media publicity and became the focus of attention at the World NGO Forum on Women at Huairou in conjunction with the IN’s Fourth world Conference on Women in Beijing.
For instance, the Director of Tenaganita, Irence Fernandez, was a panellist at a workshop on the quest for justice for women migrant workers at the world NGO Forum on Women, where several posters highlighting the plight of such workers at Malaysian immigration detention camps were prominently displayed.
The Government should set up an independent inquiry into the treatment and conditions of the illegal immigrants in the detention centres, as the police investigation announced by the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor cannot be a substitute for two reasons: the police investigation will concentrate on alleged misdeeds of police officers when the focus should be larger on the overall conditions and treatment of migrant workers in the detention centres; and secondly, the police investigations will not be competent or have the professional expertise to deal with allegations of the high incidence of migrant workers having to be sent to the mental hospital.
After my visit to the Semenyih immigration detention camp, I had briefed the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Megat Junid Megat Ayub, of my impressions and my three proposals for the improvement of the conditions in the camp. Subsequently, I wrote to Megat asking for clearance for Opposition MPs to visit the Langkap immigration detention camp.
Mahathir has agreed to the establishment of Independent Board of Visitors for the immigration detention camps.
In his reply dated August 30, Megat said the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, who is also Home Minister, had agreed to consider my proposal that an independent Board of Visitors be set up to visit and make recommendations with regard to all the immigration detention camps.
He said that the Ministry was handling this matter and that a “final decision” would ba made shortly. He assured that the Board of Visitors to be set up would comprise representatives from the Opposition and NGOs.
In view of this development, Megat felt that there was no need for another visit by MPs to Langkap immigration detention camp as the conditions there “are almost the same as at the Semenyih immigration detention camp”.
I will write to Megat to ask that MPs be allowed to visit Langkap detention centre and Hospital Bahagia to ascertain reasons for the high incidence of the detainees sent to the mental hospital.
However, there had been several new developments in the past week, such as:
• The statement by the Prime Minister that the government is prepared to have an independent inquiry into the Tenaganita allegations of deaths and mistreatment of illegal immigrants in the detention camps;
• The announcement by the IGP last Sunday that he had directed police investigations into Tenaganita allegations of abuses and corruption by police personnel against the migrant workers;
• The international focus on the conditions and mistreatment of migrant workers in immigration detention camps in the World NGO Forum on Women in Huairou; and
• The alarming incidence of migrant-worker detainees at the Langkap detention camp being sent to the mental hospital, Hospital Bahagia.
In view of these developments, I will again write to Megat to allow concerned MPs to visit Langkap immigration detention camp as well as Hospital Bahagia in Tanjong Rambutan to especially ascertain the reasons for the high incidence of migrant-worker detainees in Langkap being sent to the mental hospital.