Updated 8.42pm, 8 May 2009
PUTRAJAYA, 8 May 2009: Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders, P Uthayakumar, M Manoharan and K Vasantha will be among 13 Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees to be released within the next few days, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein announced today.
The others are Zulkepli Marzuki, Jeknal Adil and Admi Pindatun; two Indonesian nationals Zainun Rasyid and Aboud Ghafar Shahril, and five Filipinos Sufian Salih, Hasim Talib, Abdul Jamal Azahari, Yusof Mohd Salam and Husin Alih.
“They will be released within the next two or three days as soon as the documentation process is completed.
“For the foreign nationals, they will be freed after we have sorted out the repatriation process with Manila and Jakarta,” he said.
Answering queries from the media, Hishammuddin said Manoharan’s release had nothing to do with the Kota Alam Shah’s intention to vacate the seat.
“None at all… on the contrary, we found that all of them are no longer a threat to the country,” he said.
A statement distributed to the media by Manoharan’s wife, S Pushpaneela on 2 May, said Manoharan was thinking of vacating the seat.
This is the second batch of ISA detainees released by the government since Datuk Seri Najib Razak became the prime minister last month.
Najib announced the release of the first batch of detainees, also comprising 13 people, when delivering his maiden speech as the prime minister on 3 April.
Two Hindraf leaders V Ganabatirau and R Kengadharan were among the 13 detainees released in the first batch.
On another matter, Hishammuddin said all 69 people arrested for participating in a gathering in front of the Perak Darul Ridzuan Building yesterday, had been freed on bail.
Meanwhile, in an immediate reaction, political groups welcomed the Home Ministry’s decision to release the 13 ISA detainees. In lauding the move, MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu said the release of the ISA detainees, including three leaders from the banned organisation Hindraf, would bode well for the image of the country.
“Their release from ISA detention, especially the Hindraf leaders, will bring an end to an episode which created dissatisfaction in the Indian community,” he said in a statement here. By releasing the detainees, Samy Vellu noted that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had kept his promise to be a fair leader and a leader of all Malaysians when he took over the country.
But DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang questioned the delay in releasing the detainees, arguing that they should be freed today, in keeping with the prime minister’s “Performance Now” motto.
“If the police can effect arrests with immediate effect, why can’t they effect releases when such a decision is taken?
“It does not speak well for the competence and efficiency either of the Home Minister or the Special Branch if they cannot release all the 13 by today, instead of having to wait the ‘next two or three days’, Lim said in the statement.
Another DAP leader, national publicity secretary and MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, Tony Pua, termed the decision to release the detainees “a U-turn” from Hishammuddin’s stand two days ago.
On 6 May, Hishammuddin had unequivocally declared that the Ministry will not bow to what it termed as a “threat” by ISA detainee Manoharan who had announced that he may relinguish his post as Kota Alam Shah assemblyperson as he is unable serve his constituents in detention.
“We are pleased that the government has finally decided to listen to the demands of the people and the civil society and do the right thing by releasing our DAP colleague and many other ISA detainees to avoid what can only be regarded as an ‘unnecessary’ by-election should it have been held due to his resignation,” Pua said in the statement. The MP for Petaling Jaya Utara also called upon Hishammuddin to release the detainees on an unconditional basis without restrictions on their movements and freedom of speech.
He also urged the minister to priortise the reform of abolishment of the ISA, and engage all political parties and civil society in a dialogue on the issue.
BN component Gerakan also welcomed the release of the detainees, but urged the government to release the remaining detainees who are not involved in terrorism.
In a media statement, party secretary-general Teng Chang Yeow said the 13 to be released should not be subjected to restrictive conditions, as it would be against the spirit of democracy.
He also reiterated Gerakan’s stand that the ISA should be replaced with an anti-terrorism law akin to the one in the United Kingdom, and supports the government plan to review the laws.
“Our central legal and human rights bureau is currently working on a memorandum for a total review of the ISA so that the law would only be applied to terrorist activities,” said Teng.
Meanwhile, the Bar Council welcomes the government’s decision to release the 13 ISA detainees.
Its president, Ragunath Kesavan, said the move gave a new indication to a new era of administration under Najib.
“I have been waiting for this moment. I am happy with the news and definitely their (detainees’) families would be happy, too. “This is a positive move and I hope the country will be more transparent, democratic and open,” he told a press conference.— Bernama