[Malaysiakini] A unified Bar rejects ISA

20 09 2008

~ S Pathmavathy

In the end, the decision was unanimous. Malaysian lawyers stood united against the Internal Security Act and want the draconian legislation out of the way.

At its extraordinary general meeting today, held especially to condemn the abuse of the ISA, the Malaysian Bar unanimously voted for its abolishment.

The close-door meeting in Kuala Lumpur garnered a massive turnout of more than 700 participants when a quorum of only 500 is required.

The bar reiterated its stand on oppressive laws such as the ISA, Emergency Ordinance (EO) and Dangerous Drugs Act to be repealed immediately and called for the release all those detained under them.

Some of the guests at the EGM today were Seputeh MP Teresa Kok and ISA detainees’ wives S Pushpaneela and Norlaila Othman. They recounted chronicles of their sufferings and hardships faced by their families.

“We are deeply concerned by the instances shared with us by our three guests as well as other members of the bar who have had contact with detainees under the ISA, as to the manner of their treatment,” Bar Council chairperson S Ambiga told a press conference after the EGM.

“We are appalled by the manner in which the ISA detainees are being treated – six to eight (feet) cells without windows, unacceptable food, and lack of contact to the outside world and sleep deterioration,” said Ambiga.

The bar also reiterated their stand by calling for the unconditional release of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders M Manoharan, P Uthayakumar, R Kengadharan, V Ganabatirau and K Vasantha Kumar.

Former Bar chairperson Sulaiman Abdullah, present at the press conference, stressed that the government should take into consideration the challenges and trauma faced by the families of detainees.

“It’s about time the government repeals the ISA since it can be abused against those opposing the government,” he said.

Besides their firm declaration against the ISA, Ambiga added that the resolution also condemned the issuance of the three show-cause letters to Sin Chew Daily, theSun and PKR’s Suara Keadilan.

“The bar calls upon the government to uphold its pledges to the United Nations Human Rights Council to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and to promote a free media, including in cyberspace,” said Ambiga.

ISA abuse amounts to state terrorism

Ambiga added that the participants gave standing ovations to the guest speakers and wholly rejected all the oppressive laws.

“It amounts to an abuse of the ISA and can be termed as state terrorism.

“The authorities must be held accountable for the way in which these persons are being treated in custody,” she said.

Specifically referring to the continued detention of Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Ambiga added that the Bar is concerned about the claims of mental torture that he is undergoing.

The latest ISA crackdown began with controversial blogger Raja Petra when he was taken into custody on Sept 12. Raja Petra’s detention was then followed by the arrest of Tan Hoon Cheng, a journalist for the Sin Chew Daily, who however, was released after 18 hours.

Matters gravitated when Teresa Kok, who is also the Selangor senior executive councillor, was picked up on the same day after attending a function.

Kok was released yesterday after seven days of detention, purportedly for interfering with matters of Islamic concerns.

Sulaiman then commended the role of the media as source information for public education and credited the release of Tan and Kok as an effort by the press.

“We acknowledge the fact that the media has credibility to educate people in understanding their freedom and rights,” said Sulaiman.

“Never underestimate the power of the press,” he added.

Asked whether the resolution will be heeded by the authorities concerned or ignored like previous attempts and the Bar’s next course of action, Sulaiman said “when you bang, you bang against the wall you start making noise”.

“(And) as the noise keeps on somebody is bound to come and investigate why there is a noise and we need to keep up this noise,” he said.

“The Bar Council is the custodian of civil liberties and justice in Malaysia,” Sulaiman asserted.

The article above is taken from Malaysiakini.


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