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ATimes: Malaysian ruling boosts fight against security law
By Anil Netto
3/6/2001 7:58 am Sun
[Keputusan oleh Hakim Hishammuddin telah menggemparkan negara khususnya
anjing dan tuannya. Mereka kelihatan cuba menterbalikkannya tetapi tidak
pula mendapat reaksi peguam negara dan hakim negara yang seperti berkecuali
kerana takut terkena diri pula. Ini menimbulkan banyak tanda-tanya dimanakah
mereka berpijak sebenarnya?
Polis memerlukan seorang yang kaki putar alam yang berkaliber - soalnya
mereka pun was-was juga untuk menghulur kepala. Silap-silap tertebas pula
- kan nahas jadinya?
Malaysian ruling boosts fight against security law
By Anil Netto
PENANG, Malaysia - This week's landmark court ruling that freed two
Malaysian activists who had been detained under a harsh security law
has galvanized critics seeking its repeal and raised hopes for more
independent judgments in the future.
In moments of high drama in court on May 30, High Court Judge Mohammad
Hishamudin Yunus in a strongly worded judgment, ordered the two
reformasi or reform activists to be released. In making his ruling,
Hishamuddin asserted that their arrests by police authorities had been
made in bad faith, violated the detainees' constitutional rights, and
ignored their procedural rights.
The two activists, N Gobalakrishnan and Abdul Ghani Haroon, were
arrested and held in April under the Internal Security Act (ISA), a
colonial-era law that allows arrests and detention without warrants.
In an unprecedented ruling, Hishamudin also ordered waiting police not
to immediately re-arrest the pair, as has happened in the past with
detainees under the ISA freed by the courts.
"Those police officers responsible for the detention of the applicants
must wake up to the fact that the supreme law of this country is the
constitution and not the ISA," said Hishamudin, who even told
Parliament that "it is high time" it reconsiders the relevance of the
ISA to prevent and minimize abuses of law by the authorities.
Gobalakrishnan and Ghani, youth leaders in the opposition National
Justice Party (Keadilan), walked out of court on Wednesday afternoon
as free men and were mobbed by some 300 reformasi supporters.
They were among 10 political activists detained in a police swoop that
began on April 10 and ended April 26, supposedly to prevent dissidents
from organizing anti-government protests in support of former deputy
premier Anwar Ibrahim. Gobalakrishnan was detained on April 10 and
Ghani was picked up the next day.
The court's judgment came 50 days after Gobalakrishnan was arrested.
Just three days earlier, on May 27, his wife Vasanthi Ramalingam was
allowed her first visit since his arrest. Ghani's family was also
allowed to meet him that same day, 46 days after his arrest. It was
only on the next day, May 28, that the government-appointed Human
Rights Commission of Malaysia was allowed to interview the detainees
in the presence of police.
Not allowing detainees' access to family members is cruel, inhuman and
oppressive, not only to the those held in custody but also to their
family members, observed Hishamudin in his judgment. "What harm would
the visits of the family members bring?" he asked, adding that the
visits could have been closely monitored. "It is a blatant and gross
violation of the detainees' constitutional rights." Hishammudin also
ruled that police must give a "reasonable amount of details" to show
the grounds for the arrests and not merely parrot legal provisions.
The other eight detained in the April police swoop remain in custody
and await Federal Court decisions in mid-June that could determine
Activists hope the May 30 judgment signals an era of judicial
independence after years of controversy following the sacking of
Malaysia's top judge along with the suspension of five Supreme Court
judges in 1988. A new chief justice was appointed late last year,
raising hope of reforms. But analysts had seen few tangible
differences until now.
UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Param
Cumaraswamy says the judgment signaled the resurgence of Malaysian
judicial independence. "Justice Hishamudin's remarks are what any
judge sensitized to international jurisprudence on human rights would
have said," he noted.
Human rights groups such as Aliran said the court ruling revives hopes
for an end to "an unfortunate tradition of judicial reluctance to
challenge the use of draconian legislation and brutal force by a
regime that has increasingly set aside the rule of law".
Rights groups and former detainees have alleged that the harsh,
relentless interrogation of the detainees, which former ISA detainees
have spoken about, often amounts to psychological torture.
Following the judgment, the Malaysian Bar Council reiterated its stand
that the ISA should be repealed. "We welcome the judicial observation
that neither in the ISA nor in the Constitution is there a provision
that access to lawyers would only be given after investigations are
completed," said vice chairman Roy Rajasingham in a statement.
Rajasingham welcomed the judge's view that the denial of lawyers
violates the detainee's basic right to apply for habeas corpus, a
constitutional right. Habeas corpus entitles a detainee to be produced
in court when seeking a ruling on the legality of the detention.
Still, it is too early to say that the end is near for the ISA. Apart from the eight still under detention, a few dozen others from previous arrests are said to be still in custody. Already, the police chief is appealing Hishamudin's decision. But for the moment, activists and groups are celebrating what they hope proves to be a turning point in the campaign to repeal the ISA.