Lifting of the ban and the release of 13 ISA detainees

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Dato Seri Najib’s lifting of the ban imposed on two opposition publications on 23 March 2009 and the release of 13 ISA deatinees reminded me of an incident more than 30 years ago. It was the day after the Wesak Day celebrations.  The newspapers carried on their front pages photographs of pigeons being released to mark the occasion. This good deed was prominently highlighted.

When everybody was singing praises of the good deed performed on the holy day, this friend of mine sardonically remarked, “Someone has to do a cruel deed, for someone else to perform a good deed.” There was a stunned silence.

At that moment the truth struck home. Indeed, someone has to commit an unconscionable act to trap the pigeons and cruelly cage them, deny them  their freedom and space and imprison them for a protracted period of time until a propitious occasion came by for their purchase and subsequent release.

How different is the lifting of the ban and the release of the 13 ISA detainees from the above example?

The banning of Suara Keadilan and Harakah on the dubious claim of having published “inflammatory articles” was unjust and undemocratic. Though a three-month ban was imposed on 23 March, how is it possible for this perceived danger to the national security to disappear within a mere 11 days? Was this cruel deed contrived so that Najib could on assuming the premiership do a good deed?

When some rumours started to circulate implicating Najib to a certain murder, it was rightly demanded, “Where is the evidence?”

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Shouldn’t the same logic be applicable to those detaineed under the obnoxious ISA without a shred of evidence? They were unjustly detained on mere allegations and dubious claims. Shouldn’t we also rightly demand, “Where is the evidence?”

Releasing only 13 ISA detainees on the day Najib was sworn in as Prime Minister must be viewed as a political decision to project the “feel good”effect without conveying the abhorence for detentions without trial. It was meant to appear as performing a good deed. But in the first instance, they had to be cruelly detained for Najib to do this good deed.

On the other hand, if Najib had repealed the ISA on this propitious occasion to mark his elevation as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia it would have been a remarkable gesture to be applauded.

Releasing the two Hindraf leaders, V Ganabatirau and R Vengadharan, without releasing P Uthayakumar, M Manoharan and K Vasantha Kumar makes no sense. The other three Hindraf leaders now languishing unfairly in Kamunting cannot be justified especially since they do not face any additional charges as compared to those who were released.

There is totally no justification for their continued detention. The sickly Uthayakumar, the democratically elected Manoharan and the innocent Vasantha Kumar all deserve to be free and be productive members of the society.

Likewise all the rest of the other ISA detainees should have been released unconditionally. Robbing them of their freedom is cruel and unjust; denying them a fair trial and their right to defend themselves in an open court is a blatant abuse of their human rights.

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Aliran calls upon our sixth Prime Minister to start his term of office on a clean slate by abolishing all undemocratic laws that are cruel and unjust.

P Ramakrishnan
President
4 April 2009

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