Cautious welcome for the appointment of Tan Sri Zulkifli Mahmud as head of the Independent Board of Visitors for the nine immigration detention camps


Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, at the Tenaganita press conference held in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, 28th September 1995 at 3pm

Cautious welcome for the appointment of Tan Sri Zulkifli Mahmud as head of the Independent Board of Visitors for the nine immigration detention camps

I would cautiously welcome the appointment of former Anti-Corruption Agency director-general Tan Sri Zulkifli Mahmud as head of the Indendent Board of Visitors for the nine immigration detention camps to ensure that they do not sully the international reputation of Malaysia with sub-standard conditions and treatment of illegal immigrants detained there.

I say “cautious welcome” because I respect Tan Sri Zulkifli Mahmud as a good honest, upright and God-fearing Malaysian but I am also aware that the system is greater than the person.

This was why although Tan Sri Zulkifli had a anti-corruption zeal when he was head of the ACA, he could not accomplish what he wanted, whether in terms of introducing a new Prevention of Corruption Act with increased penalties for corruption offences and enhanced powers to the ACA, such as the confiscation of ill-gotten gains by government officers and political leaders or to take certain ACA investigations to their logical conclusion of arrests and prosecution, regardless of rank or position.

I hope Tan Sri Zulkifli would have more scope and space as had of the Independent Board of Visitors to do what he believes is right and should be done. This will depend on the terms of reference of the Board of Visitors and the composition of the other nine members of Board, both of which had not been announced.

I welcome the establishment of the Board of Visitors for the nine immigration camps as this was one of the three proposals I made to the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Megar Junid Megat Ayub after I had visited the Semenyik immigration detention camp on 23rd August together with Opposition MPs.

My two other proposals were: the establishment of an independent inquiry into the 46 deaths in the immigration detention camps and the increase in the rice ration, which was only RM2.90 per person daily. The country can afford such an increase as Malaysia is getting RM400-500 million a year from the levy on foreign workers.

It would appear that although the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed had said that the government is prepared to establish an independent inquiry into the 46 deaths in the immigration detention camps, there is strong resistance from inside the government.

If the Government is not prepared to establish an independent inquiry into the 46 deaths, then it should allow the Independent Board of Visitors headed by Zulkifli to conduct a public inquiry into the deaths.

The Independent Board of Visitors will not be able to have a good beginning if the questions over causes of death of the 46 deaths in the immigration detention remain unresolved.