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Requests to meet ministers over ISA ignored: Suaram

Corrected on 7 Nov 2008 at 11.45am

KUALA LUMPUR, 6 Nov 2008: Repeated requests to see ministers, through official channels, about the Internal Security Act (ISA) are ignored, forcing some groups to resort to ambush tactics.

According to Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) coordinator Nalini Elumalai, ambushing may be the only way to get hold of the ministers as going through proper channels was usually fruitless.

Suaram is one of the 83 organisations in the Abolish ISA Coalition (GMI). At present, there are 66 detainees at the Kamunting detention centre, some of whom have been held for seven years.

She said that since GMI’s establishment in 2001, approximately 90 letters have been sent to the home minister and the prime minister calling for a meeting to express concerns on the use of the ISA.

But until now, the coalition has yet to receive any response.

This could be one reason why some groups have been forced to resort to unorthodox methods to present their views to the ministers, Nalini said.

Recently, a group from the now-outlawed Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) caused a stir when they turned up at the Aidilfitri open house hosted by the prime minister and Muslim cabinet ministers at PWTC on 1 Oct 2008.

(corrected) They were there to hand over a memorandum calling for the release of the five Hindraf leaders who have been detained under the ISA since November 2007.

(corrected) On 23 Oct, a group of 11 people were arrested in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya in an attempt to pass another memorandum on the Hindraf detainees to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Participants in both cases were condemned, with several leaders saying that they should have gone through proper channels to see the prime minister.

But according to Nalini, going through the proper channels is a frustrating experience.

“This year alone, GMI sent one letter in January, one in February, two in April and several in May to Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, asking for a meeting over the ISA.”

“We also sent a memorandum to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) in September to push for the repeal of the ISA, and another letter to the home minister, asking for a meeting,” Nalini added.

She said the typical response received was that the request was “still being processed.”

Hindraf is not the only group to have waylaid the prime minister over the ISA detention.

In 2006, GMI committee member Norlaila Othman, who is the wife of ISA detainee Mat Sah Mat Satray, met Abdullah at a function in Seremban in 2006 and passed him a memorandum asking for the release of the detainees.

Nalini said there appears to be no other way to get the ministers’ attention than to ambush them, or to hold a demonstration.

By doing this, at least the government will get the message, she added.

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