KUALA LUMPUR, 17 April 2009: Three individuals were arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) even as 13 detainees were released by new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
However, according to the Anti-ISA Movement or Gabungan Mansuh ISA (GMI), the arrests were not ordered by Najib’s administration as at least two were made prior to his swearing-in as prime minister on 3 April.
The three arrested are Agus Salim, 32, an Indonesian who was detained on 5 March in Johor. He was a cook who had just finished performing his prayers when he was served the arrest order. According to GMI, there were five police cars to escort the detainee, and the arrest was captured on video by the police.
Another detainee, Abdul Matin Anol Rahmat, 60, was taken in on 1 April in Ulu Tiram, Johor Baru. Twelve police officers were present during his arrest. He is suspected of being a Jemaah Islamiyah member.
The third detainee is Johar Hassan, on whom GMI could not obtain any information.
GMI presented a memorandum on the arrests to the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) at their office in Kuala Lumpur today. Commissioner Datuk N Siva Subramaniam received the memorandum from GMI chief Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh.
Syed Ibrahim “We note that the first 60 days under ISA is a period of intimidation and physical and mental torture on the detainees. These arrests have not been announced by the police or government to the media. Their families are in the dark about their condition and where they are being held,” Syed Ibrahim said.
GMI, an umbrella body for 83 non-governmental organisations, wants the government to either free the three immediately or produce them in court to be charged.
Suhakam commissioner Siva said it was unusual for the government not to announce the detentions. “Usually, the agency concerned such as the Home Ministry will do so. The secrecy is disturbing,” he told The Nut Graph.
He said Suhakam will contact the Home Ministry to find out about the three detainees’ well-being and the reasons for their arrests.
“Suhakam has never agreed with the ISA as it is against fundamental human rights, as is other detention-without-trial laws such as the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985. Detainees should be charged and given the opportunity to answer,” Siva said.
GMI has also asked Suhakam to renew its call to the government to abolish the ISA, which the human rights body did in 2003. Suhakam had suggested that a new act, a Terrorism Act, be implemented instead, but this was not taken up by the government nor tabled in Parliament.
“There are other laws that can be used that do not take away the right to trial and the right for a person to defend him- [or her]self,” Syed Ibrahim said.
Commenting on Najib’s promise in his inaugural speech as prime minister to review the ISA, Syed Ibrahim said, “The ISA ought to be abolished, not reviewed.”
Najib had said this on 3 April, besides announcing the release of 13 ISA detainees including two Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders.