33 years after Operation Lalang: Abolish laws that allow detention without trial

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Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) reiterates its call for the immediate repeal of all laws that allow detention without trial laws.

On 27 October 1987, a black day in Malaysian history, ‘Operation Lallang’ happened.

A 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 Ministry of Home Affairs also withdrew the printing and publishing licences of The Star, Sin Chew Jit Poh and Watan, which was restored almost five months later on about 22 March 1988

Although the ISA was repealed at the end of July 2012, other draconian laws that allow detention without trial like the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015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

Laws that allow detention without trial laws allows the executive to administratively detain or restrict persons for reasons that cannot be challenged in courts, and as such lies and falsehoods can be used.

The reasons or justification for the use of such laws that allow detention without trial cannot be challenged in courts. Hence, the judiciary’s role in a democracy, to provide checks and balances on the actions and omissions of the executive is removed.

Since the abolition of the ISA, the scope of current laws that allow detention without trial is so much wider: it now even includes 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.

Laws that allow detention without trial undermine the rule of law, justice and human rights, ie they deny the right to a fair trial and even violate the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “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) states: “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”

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Operation Lalang victims – rights defenders, activists, politicians…

Among those arrested were human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders like Theresa Lim Chin Chin (All Women’s Action Society or Awam and the Women’s Development Collective), Chee Heng Leng (Awam and WDC), Cecilia Ng (Awam and WDC), Irene Xavier (now Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor) and Meenakashi Raman (Consumers Associaiton of Penang).

Other human rights defenders arrested included Chandra Muzaffar (then-Aliran president), Dr Tan Ka Kheng (vice-chair of the Enviromental Protection Society of Malaysia), Harrison Ngau (an environmental activist awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1990 for his work to prevent deforestation of the Sarawak region), Br Anthony Rogers (National Office for Human Development), Arokia Dass, Kua Kia Soong (Civil Rights Committee and now Suaram), Nasir Hashim (Insan and former chair of the Socialist Party of Malaysia) and Lim Fong Seng (chair of the board of governors of the Confucian High School in Kuala Lumpur).

Community rights defenders included Hiew Yun Tat and Lee Koon Bun, chair and vice-chair of the Perak Anti-Radioactive Committee.

Pakatan Harapan-plus government failed to repeal laws that allow detention without trial

Current DAP and Amanah leaders like Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu were also victims, along with many other politicians from the DAP and Pas.

Anwar Ibrahim, the PKR leader was also twice a victim of the ISA in 1974 and again in 1998, but he has been criticised for his silence during Operation Lalang, when he was then part of the cabinet.

Other Operation 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 (also a past Malaysians Trades Union Congress secretary-general), Hu Sepang, Wee Choo Keong, Fahmi Ibrahim, Mohamed Yunus Lebai Ali and Halim Arshat.

Madpet is disappointed that the then-PH-plus government, which included PKR, the DAP and Amanah, failed to do what was necessary to abolish speedily all the remaining laws that allowed detention without trial, including Poca, Pota and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act.

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Judicial review of the reasons for arrest, detention or restriction is still not allowed, even though that could have been remedied easily by an amendment.

The PH-pluss government also failed to even table bills that would have led to the repeal of such laws – not even bills that would finally enable courts to review the reasons why laws that allow detention without trial are used against victims, ie judicial review. If there was no time, bills could always have been debated and passed at subsequent parliamentary sessions.

Even if politicians are not victims of such laws, the people still are

Even though, prominent politicians may have not fallen victim to these remaining laws that allow detention without trial like Poca and Pota, other persons continue to be victims of such laws.

Any justice-loving person or party must be committed to repealing all laws that allow detention without trial. A caring government committed to justice will repeal such laws and ensure everyone is accorded the right to a fair trial.

Madpet reiterates our call for the immediate repeal of all laws that allow detention without trial laws, including Poca, Pota and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act.

Madpet also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all persons currently detained or restricted under laws that allow detention without trial 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 or she must be investigated, charged in court and accorded the right to a fair trial.

Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet)

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Khoo Soo Hay
Khoo Soo Hay
17 Nov 2020 6.46am

The way of a dictator under the guise of democracy! You know who the dictator was at that time.