POPO - The other ISA
NGO joint memorandum calling for the repeal of the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969
Going by this number of people detained, the POPO can be deemed to be ten times worse than the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA), which also allows for detention without trial. The POPO originally promulgated to counter the grave emergency of the 1969 racial riots which resulted in deaths, violence and destruction - is yet to be repealed. It still exists in our statute books - just like the many other emergency laws - even though the past conditions and justification no longer warrant its continued existence.
The POPO is an odious piece of legislation widely and frequently used by the police and the Home Ministry to arbitrarily detain or restrict the movement of those suspected to be gangsters and violent criminals. It is of grave concern to us that all those detained under suspicion have not been charged in a court of law for any specific offences because of lack of evidence. But the provisions in POPO provide for a convenient alternative to the tedious work of proper investigation requiring that facts must first be established before one can be prosecuted.
Regrettably there have been numerous cases when persons acquitted by the courts were re-arrested and detained. This common practice is an affront to the system of justice and does not respect the findings of the court.
Arbitrary powers to detain
The POPO arms the police with arbitrary powers to detain any person arrested under undemocratic law for up to 60 days for reasons of “preventing any person from acting prejudicial to public order” or for the purpose of “suppression of violence” or the “prevention of crimes involving violence.” In this circumstance the law is by-passed. There is no need for a remand order to be obtained from the magistrate for this detention. All it takes is for an arresting police officer of or above the rank of deputy superintendent to report the circumstances of the arrest to the Inspector General of Police or his designated officer.
After the initial 60-day detention period, the Home Ministry can make an order authorising the detention without trial for a period of two years. Or alternately, the Home Ministry could serve an order of restriction on the suspects imposing several conditions under police supervision. Under this order they would be required to reside within the limits of an area ranging from a village to a state anywhere in the country; to periodically report to the police; to remain indoors between specified hours and abide by other restrictions on their movements. These orders can be renewed indefinitely.
Circumvents the rule of law
The POPO is equally as draconian as the ISA. It is undoubtedly unconstitutional and blatantly circumvents the rule of law. It makes a mockery of the principle of presumption of innocent until proven guilty; it unjustly denies our civil liberties; it allows for detention without trial denying our natural justice and creates conditions for torture and other degrading forms of treatment while under detention.
The POPO is not seen as notorious as the ISA despite currently detaining more victims. POPO does not evoke as much anger and hatred as the ISA - though it is just as obnoxious - simply because its target group is different from the dissidents, critics, politicians, etc who are detained under the ISA. POPO is applied mainly against alleged gangsters, violent criminals, drug pushers and peddlers and that is why there is hardly any outcry against the use of the POPO.
However, recent trends have shown that apart from suspected gangsters or violent criminals who are primarily targeted under the POPO, even others such as the following groups who may not fall under the so-called category of criminals or undesirable elements have been arrested and detained under the POPO:
The reason for the hunger strike was not to protest the unsatisfactory detention condition at the detention centre but to draw attention to the following: :
Gross human rights violation
Detention without trial is a gross human rights violation. It violates Article 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and Article 8 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Federal Constitution which guarantees due process and security of persons.
There are sufficient criminal laws in the country to deal with all kinds of crime and offences to apprehend and prosecute offenders without resorting to POPO. Is significant that SUHAKAM has also called for the repeal of POPO and other detention without trial laws. Human rights organizations such as SUARAM, HAKAM, ALIRAN, Amnesty International and the Bar Council have made repeated similar calls for many, many years.
In May this year, even the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operations and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police in its report to the King and the Government specifically called for the repeal of POPO. The Commission stated that POPO has outlived its purposes and in some instances has facilitated the abuse of some fundamental liberties. The Commission recommended a May 2006 deadline for the government to implement these recommendations.
In view of this, we the undersigned organisations call for the government:
Now tell us what you think in fewer than 250 words. Your comments may be published in the Letters section of our print magazine, Aliran Monthly.