ISA detainee’s health: Government’s responsibility

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Many Malaysians are deeply concerned about the seemingly deliberate denial of medical treatment for ISA detainee and Hindraf adviser P Uthayakumar. The Kamunting detention centre’s denial of urgent medical treatment for Uthayakumar, whose health is fast deteriorating, is a deliberate violation of the Hindraf leader’s human rights, asserts Angeline Loh.

Uthayakumar has been diagnosed with a cardiac problem and the Taiping General Hospital consultants have recommended that he be admitted to the National Heart Institute (IJN) in Kuala Lumpur. But he remains at the Kamunting Detention Centre without adequate medical attention.

Pleas and appeals by family members and friends appear to have been stonewalled, not only by centre’s authorities, but also indirectly by the federal government itself. In the first place, the reason for his detention and that of four other Hindraf leaders under the draconian and oppressive ISA is completely unclear and dubious.

The continuing denial of medical treatment for Uthayakumar is seen as “cruel and inhuman treatment” as described in The Declaration on Protection from Torture 1975 and against the “purposes of the Charter of the United Nations” and represents a violation of human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Annex, Article 2 Declaration on Protection from Torture).

What has Uthayakumar done to deserve such ‘torture’? This apparently deliberate act of oppression by the government may result in the death of Uthayakumar, which the Federal Government and Kamunting centre authorities must be held responsible and accountable for. Ordinary remand and other prison inmates are duly given access to medical treatment in government hospitals around the country; why not political detainees?

There is no justification for such ‘violence’ and cruelty to be practised on any human being, let alone those who have been courageous enough to speak out for their rights and the rights of others suffering from the exclusion and the oppression of poverty.

Uthayakumar and other Hindraf leaders championed the cause of the poor at the end of last year, before the Barisan Nasional lost its two-thirds majority in the 8 May 2008 general elections. Their protest was not the sole cause for that loss of votes by the BN. The fundamental cause of it was the arrogance and increasingly oppressive circumstances brought about by the ruling party itself.

Evidence of this can been seen in its callous attitude towards fuel price and toll rate hikes and its strangulation of the freedom of expression and the right of assembly. The oppressive circumstances included the spiralling public transport chaos, not only in the Federal Territory but also in Penang State, the neglect of the disabled and the denial of their rights, burgeoning corruption, and above all else the refusal to hold free and fair elections.

All in all, it was the ruling party’s own mismanagement of the country and abuse of power that spurred the rakyat to shift their support. The Barisan Nasional has only itself to blame for its losses.

Uthayakumar, his family and the other Hindraf leaders, their families and supporters, should not be made scapegoats for the errors of a government that continues to turn a blind-eye to its own failures.

When will the Barisan Nasional government stop these reprisals against ordinary Malaysians whose only aspiration is to live in peace and justice in a our multiracial Malaysian society?

Reprisals such as this and the suppression of free expression and assembly are certainly not the solution to the symptoms of a weak administration that is conscious of its own deficiencies and progressive loss of credibility. Over-reactionary, brute force does not represent strength; it is a symptom of weakness and loss of control.

The Federal government and the Kamunting authorities should allow Uthayakumar the urgent medical treatment he needs, and cease the violation of his human rights. A newly elected government should be clear in its thinking; it should advocate and adhere to principles of good governance. A fair and just government does not respond to the problems of the rakyat with reprisals but with concrete measures to alleviate their suffering.

Join in the call for ALL ISA detainees to be released or tried in open court. Support the Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA and all other civil society organizations that have taken a strong position against detention without trial.

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