Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Ops Lalang: Abolish all detention without trial laws(Malaysiakini)


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COMMENT | Ops Lalang: Abolish all detention without trial laws

Charles Hector

Modified 4:51 pm

COMMENT | On Oct 27, 1987, a black day in Malaysian history dubbed ‘Operation Lalang’ happened. This massive crackdown using the draconian detention without trial law, the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) resulted in about 106 human rights defenders, politicians and others being arrested, and detained, some for almost two years. 

The Home Ministry also withdrew the printing and publishing licenses of the Star, Sin Chew Jit Poh and Watan, which was restored almost five months later on around March 1988.

Whilst the ISA was repealed in end July 2012, other draconian detention without trial (DWT) laws like the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota) and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985 (DDSPMA) still remain, and many persons continue to be arrested, detained and/or restricted without trial in Malaysia.

DWT laws allow the Executive to administratively detain/restrict persons for reasons that cannot be challenged in courts, and as such lies and falsehood can be used. The reasons or justification for the use of such DWT laws cannot be challenged in courts. Hence, the judiciary’s role in a democracy, to serve as a check and balance to the actions/omissions of the Executive is removed.

Since the abolition of the ISA, the scope the current DWT laws are so much wider, to now even include even ordinary Penal Code crimes. A suspected thief may also be simply be detained without trial, and not be accorded the right to a fair trial.

DWT laws undermine the rule of law, justice and human rights – denying the right to a fair trial, and even violating the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides, “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.”

Article 11(1) of the UDHR states that “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”

Victims of Ops Lalang

Amongst the arrested were human rights defenders (HRDs), including women human rights defenders such as Theresa Lim Chin Chin, Chee Heng Leng and Cecilia Ng, Irene Xavier and Meenakshi Raman.

Other activists arrested included Dr Chandra Muzaffar, Tan Ka Kheng, Harrison Ngau, Anthony Rogers, Arokia Dass, Kua Kia Soong, Mohd Nasir Hashim and Lim Fong Seng.

Community HRDs included Hiew Yun Tat and Lee Koon Bun (chairperson and vice-chairperson of Perak Anti-Radioactive Committee).

Pakatan Harapan fails to repeal DWT laws

Current leaders of the DAP and Amanah such as Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng and Muhamad Sabu were also victims, along with many other politicians from the DAP and PAS. Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of PKR was also twice a victim of the ISA, in 1974 and thereafter in 1998, but he has been criticised for his silence during Ops Lalang when he was then part of the cabinet.

Other Ops Lalang politician victims included Ibrahim Ali, Tajuddin Rahman, Abdul Latif Mohamad, Muhammad Ariff Yaacob, Bunyamin Yaakob, Khaled Abu Samad, Suhaimi Saad, P Patto, Karpal Singh, V David, Hu Sepang, Wee Choo Keong, Fahmi Ibrahim, Mohamed Yunus Lebai Ali and Halim Arshat.

Madpet (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is disappointed when the then Pakatan Harapan government that included PKR, DAP and Amanah, failed to do the needful and abolish speedily all remaining DWT laws, including Poca, Pota and the DDSPMA. Judicial review of the reasons for the arrest, detention and/or restriction is still not allowed, and that could have been remedied easily by an amendment.

The Harapan government also failed to even table bills that would lead to the repeal, not even bills that will finally enable courts to review reasons why DWT laws are used against victims – judicial review. If there was no time, bills could always be debated and passed at subsequent parliamentary sessions.

Even if politicians are not victims of DWT laws, people still are

Even though prominent politicians may have not fallen victim to these remaining DWT laws, other persons continue to be victims, and any justice-loving person or party must be committed to repealing all DWT laws. A caring government committed to justice will repeal such DWT laws and ensure everyone is accorded the right to a fair trial.

Madpet reiterates the call for the immediate repeal of all DWT laws, including Poca, Pota and the DDSPMA.

Madpet also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all persons currently detained and/or restricted under DWT laws in Malaysia.

Malaysia must respect the principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law. If anyone has allegedly broken any Malaysian law, then he/she must be investigated, charged in court and accorded the right to a fair trial.

CHARLES HECTOR represents Malaysians Against Death Penalty & Torture (Madpet).- Malaysiakini, 27/10/2020


See full statement at 

33rd Anniversary of Ops Lallang – Abolish all Detention Without Trial laws

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