Memorandum to SUHAKAM – Stop using the ISA











Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) or Abolish ISA Movement which consists of more than 83 non-governmental organisations, political parties, trade union, human rights bodies, women and student bodies, and the undersigned Civil Society Organizations, express our utter disgust over the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) on 58-year-old editor of popular news portal Malaysia Today, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Tan Hoon Cheng, 33, a senior journalist for the Chinese language Sin Chew Daily and DAP MP and Selangor senior state exco Teresa Kok, 43.

1.         ISA is unjustified and indefensible

The use of ISA is totally unjustified and indefensible. There are ample other laws that can be used without having to violate the detainee’s right to trial. It is regretful that the government decided to switch from the use of the court of law to the use of the ISA in dealing with Raja Petra, YB Teresa Kok and Tan Hoon Cheng. The use of the ISA is in stark contradiction with the Federal Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It only goes to show that despite being a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Malaysian government pays scant respect to human rights.

The ISA crackdown began with Raja Petra, 58, who has targeted government figures on his website Malaysia Today.  He was detained at 1.10pm on 12 September 2008 . Tan Hoon Cheng, 33, a senior journalist for the Chinese language Sin Chew Daily, was later arrested at about 8.30pm . She was detained in connection with her report regarding the derogatory remarks made by an UMNO leader against the Chinese community which led to a national uproar. Close to midnight , DAP MP and Selangor senior state exco Teresa Kok, 43, was detained outside her condominium. The arrests elicited a round of strong protests from all quarters, including those within the BN component parties.

The three of them were arrested under Section 73(1) of the Internal Security Act 1960. Under section 73(1), the police can detain a person for a maximum of 60 days for investigations. Based on the outcome of the probe, a person can be detained for two years without trial, and the two-year term can be renewed indefinitely.

The recent arrest is a clear example of police abuse of power and unaccountable arbitrary powers to arrest and detain a person without any grounds and justification in Malaysia . The Royal Commission on police in its 2005 report echoed concerns that the existence of preventive detention laws in Malaysia have given rise to police abuse of power and arbitrary action. Amnesty International in its report “Towards human rights base policing” highlighted the fact that there is a perception that the police is being dominated for political reason by a single political party. This perception was further confirmed by the Royal Commission on police when it called for the accountability of the Special Branch in recognizing that the agency may be manipulated by a party in power for political purposes.

The ISA is contrary to fundamental principles of international law, including the right to liberty of the person, to freedom from arbitrary arrest, to be informed of the reasons for arrest, to the presumption of innocence, and to a fair and open trial in a court of law. The act also promotes a climate of impunity and arbitrariness in a nation that just celebrated its 51st anniversary of Independence .

After continuous pressure from the local and international civil society organization’s Sin Chew Daily News reporter Tan Hoon Cheng has been released on 13 September in Bukit Mertajam at 4.15pm .

Currently, Raja Petra Kamaruddin and MP Teressa Kok are still being held under police custody. They both have been denied access to lawyers and families. We still have not been informed of their status. Today, GMI received a call from Madam Marina Lee, wife of Mr. Raja Petra Kamaruddin, about his condition. Madam Marina told GMI that Mr. Raja Petra is now undergoing a hunger strike and this may put him in a weaker state of health. She believes that the police should allow family to visit him as they will be able to convince him to stop his hunger strike which might cause damage to his health.

 2.        Who is Raja Petra Kamaruddin and why was he arrested?

Raja Petra Kamaruddin is the convener of the website “Malaysia-Today”, which has unveiled numerous cases of corruption and abuse of power by the government. This is the second time Raja Petra has been detained under ISA, which allows for indefinite detention without trial. His first arrest under the ISA was on April 11, 2001 and he was released after 53 days in detention. This time, RPK was arrested at 1.10pm on Friday September 12, 2008 , under Section 73(1) of the ISA for allegedly being a threat to security, peace and public order. He is alleged to have posted articles deemed seditious and that also belittle Islam. The Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) and several Muslim organizations lodged a police report against him for allegedly insulting Malays, Muslims and Islam.

The two articles that were cited are “I promise to be a good, non-hypocritical Muslim” and “Not all Arabs are descendants of the Prophet”. Many people – Muslims included – who read them found nothing offensive in them about Islam. It seems to be a case of simply finding an excuse – any excuse – to arrest him, because his political writings have frequently embarrassed government leaders. Excuses related to religion, especially Islam, have, in the past, usually been emotive enough to gain public sympathy.

3.         Who is Teresa Kok and why was she arrested?

Teresa Kok is the Member of Parliament for Seputeh, and a senior Executive Councilor of the Selangor State Government. She was arrested under the ISA at 11.18pm , Friday September 12, 2008 , for allegedly causing tension and conflict among races as laid out in the notice issued by the Special Branch police to her next of kin. Kok had “acted in a way which threatened national security, which warranted arrest under Section 73(1) of the ISA”, by being involved in “activities which can cause tension and conflict among races and religions.” It was claimed by former Selangor Menteri Besar, Dr. Khir Toyo, that she organized a petition against mosque officials in Kota Damansara, Sri Serdang and Puchong Jaya to lower the volume of the azan (call to prayer) at a mosque.

Teresa Kok has denied organizing any such petition; Abdul Rahman Nasir, head of the Masjid Kinrara committee (the mosque in question); and YB Siti Mariah of PAS who is the MP for Kota Raja, has also denied that Teresa Kok was involved in any such petition, which was actually initiated by an individual in the community. The petition was not to lower the volume of the azan itself but that of the ceramah delivered after the prayers.

4.         Security and well being of detainees must be guaranteed

GMI is extremely concerned about the well being of the detainees. The history of the ISA reveals that many detainees were subjected to torture, inhuman and degrading treatments, especially during the first few weeks of detention. The ISA provides for ‘preventive detention’ without trial for an indefinite period. It violates fundamental rights such as the right to trial, the right to legal counsel, the right to defend oneself in open court and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It goes against the principles of justice and undermines the rule of law.

5.         The detention and release of Tan Hoon Cheng

Tan Hoon Cheng, a journalist with a local newspaper, Sin Chew Daily News, was arrested under the ISA at 8.30pm , Friday September 12, 2008 at her home in Penang . She is believed to have been arrested due to her report of the statement made by Ahmad Ismail , a member of the ruling party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). Ahmad was reported as having made a statement that Chinese Malaysians are “squatters” in the country. She was released after being detained for 16 hours. Home Affairs Minister Syed Hamid Albar claimed the decision to detain her was made by the police, not him.

He further claimed that she was detained to ensure her own safety, as her life was in danger. This is preposterous and totally absurd and brings new meaning to the word detention. How would a person be protected by detaining her under the ISA, interrogating har and depriving her of sleep?

Sin Chew has defended Tan by stating that Ahmad himself did not deny the report; he merely said it was the context of the report that was wrongly reported. The article was about the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign and was therefore not the focus of the story. The report was factual, with no manipulation of words to play up the issue. Finally, she was not the only one who reported it – journalists from other newspapers were present and all affirmed that they had heard the same remarks.

We wish to read the excerpt of a question asked by the press to Syed Hamid Albar:

Q: Is Ahmad Ismail above the law?

A: He has been punished so far as the party is concerned. At the same time there is a report against Ahmad Ismail and we are investigating it. I don’t think we treat politicians differently. We have taken action. That politician has been suspended three years by the party. He lost all his position. At the same time there is a police report of sedition made against him..

6.         No One is Above the Law?

Based on this, perhaps Ahmad Ismail is not above the law but his party is! Raja Petra has also been charged for sedition and criminal defamation. Why then is he being detained under ISA when he has these charges upon him? Should not he and Teresa deserve the right to defend themselves just as Ahmad did? The arbitrary nature of ISA provides room for such travesty of justice. The lack of judicial check on ISA permits ambiguity and baseless unproven allegations.

Therefore, GMI calls on SUHAKAM:

  1. To urge the government to release Raja Petra and Teresa as well as all other ISA detainees in Kamunting detention camp immediately or charge them in court of law;
  2. To use its power to visit detention places to ascertain the whereabouts of Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Ms. Teresa Kok, and make immediate visits to detainees and  ensure that detainees are free from torture and all other forms of inhuman and degrading treatment;
  3. To have a monitoring mechanism to ensure detainee’s rights are upheld.
  4. To reject any notion of the government to use ISA as a crackdown on dissidents
  5. To ensure the well-being and welfare of the detainees and families of ISA detainees including from the harassment and mental torture of the Police Special Branch, Detention Camp and Ministry of Internal Security;
  6. For the interim, to get the government to allow the detainees rights to have legal access and medical access and also urge the Home Minister to allow the family to visit the detainees;
  7. To ensure that the government implements recommendations made by the Royal Commission to improve the operations and management of the Police to establish an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commissions (IPCMC);
  8. To strongly urge the government to stop using ISA once and for all, respect basic human rights, rule of law and repeal the ISA.

Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh
Chairman GMI

This Memorandum is also endorsed by:

1.        Alaigal

2.        All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)

3.        Amnesty International Malaysia

4.        Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)

5.        Civil Rights Committee , Kl-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC, KLSCAH)

6.        Community Development Centre (CDC)

7.        Food Not Bomb (FNB)

8.        Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)

9.        Jemaah Islah Malaysia (JIM)

10.     Monitoring Sustainability  of Globalization (MSN)

11.     Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)

12.     Pusat Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)

13.     Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)

14.     Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)


16.     Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)

17.     Women’s Aid Organization (WAO)

18.     Worker Organization Malaysia (WOM)

19.     Youth For Change (Y4C)

20.     Youth Section of The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

21.     Youth Section of Malacca Chinese Assembly Hall

22.     Youth Section of Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall

23. Youth Section of The Federation of Chinese Associations, Johor state


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