(IANS) The Malaysian government has come under attack once again over the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA), not from a detainee’s family but from the Malaysian Bar Council chief.
Noted jurist of Indian origin Ambiga Sreneevasan has criticised the government for extending, without citing sufficient grounds, detention of terror suspects held under the ISA. She said this had had a negative impact on the family of detainees.
“There are sufficient provisions under the penal code to charge terrorist suspects, yet we have been witnessing that the two-year detentions given under ISA are being extended with no fresh reasons given. This has negatively impacted on the family of detainees,” Sreneevasan said at a discussion on ‘ISA: Abolish or Review’.
Citing a high court judgement of last October, she held out the hope for abolition or review of the ISA.
Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Mohamad Hishamudin Mohhamad Yunus had awarded 2.5 million ringgit ($800,000 approx) in damages to political activist Abdul Malek Hussein after ruling that his arrest and detention under the ISA were made in bad faith, The Sun newspaper reported Friday.
The judge had added that the detention was clearly for a political purpose, and was not based on genuine concern for national security, Sreneevasan said.
Given the recent legal developments in cases where detention without trial was being challenged, she said: “Malaysia must also move forward in removing legal provisions for detention without trial in the Emergency and Public Ordinance and the Dangerous Drug 1995 and abolish the ISA which is being used to stifle dissent.”
Sreneevasan pointed to rulings elsewhere. Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled that foreign detainees held in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba had the right to appeal to US civilian courts to challenge their indefinite imprisonment without charges.
The court specifically struck down a provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that denies Guantanamo detainees the right to file petitions to determine whether a prisoner is being held illegally.
There are an estimated 70 ISA detainees held at the Kamuntin Detention Centre. Besides Islamist militants belonging to Jama’ah Islamia and other organisations, there are five activists of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).
The Hindraf-5 – M. Manoharahan, Ganabati Rau, Vasanth Kumar, R. Kengadharan and P. Uthayakumar – were detained after they staged a protest rally last November, highlighting what they perceive as discrimination in jobs and education of the two million-plus Tamil Hindus in the country.
The government has not heeded appeals for their release and has secured extension of their detention saying that they had tried to disturb peace between the majority Malays, the 33 percent Chinese and eight percent Indians.
In April, a royal decree by King, who is the constitutional head, confirmed their detention for two years.