Contributed by Brendan Navin Siva and Tony Woon
Call to abolish the ISA
• Bar Council: Abolish ISA, free all detainees
• Bar Council: Free all ISA detainees
KUALA LUMPUR, Sat: The Extraordinary General Meeting of the Malaysian Bar started about 10.20 this morning after more than 519 members had turned up to satisfy the quorum requirement. By 11.30am, 737 members had registered for the EGM which was called by the Bar Council in its meeting last Saturday.
Proceedings began with the President of the Malaysian Bar, Ambiga Sreenevasan calling the meeting to order. Members were informed that the Bar Council had invited 3 persons to address the floor – S. Pushpaneela (the wife of M. Manoharan), Member of Parliament, Teresa Kok and Norlaila Othman.
Pushpa together with her son took to the podium and thanked the Bar Council and the Malaysian Bar for their support and assistance. She also highlighted the challenges faced by her, her children and all family members of the ISA detainees. Although she was visibly upset, she still managed to express her relief that Teresa had been released and was glad that at least one person’s prayers had been answered. Pushpa received a standing ovation from the floor when she completed her very touching speech.
Teresa Kok then took to the stage to a rousing welcome. She started by saying “I’m Back!” She briefly highlighted the circumstances of her arrest and the 3 areas of questioning she faced during her detention. She then described the conditions of her detention. She questioned the need to detain her to answer questions about the 3 issues when she could have easily answered such questions at the police station. She then highlighted the ramifications of her detention to her personally and to investment opportunities for the state of Selangor. She said that she had on the morning of her detention held a briefing for investors from China and she had told them that Malaysia was a peaceful nation.
"Can you believe it? A day after I told these investors that Malaysia was a peaceful nation, they read about my arrest", said Teresa who ended her speech by thanking the members of the Malaysian Bar for their support.
Norlaila Othman, fondly known by many members of the Bar as Kak Laila, then came forward to describe her plight as a wife of a detainee who has been held without trial for 6 years. She first said that her husband was very happy with the visits organised by the Malaysian Bar. She then expressed her gratitude to her personal friend, Edmund Bon, who had been assisting her ever since her husband was detained. She thanked Edmund and his team for all their assistance and support.
Ambiga then highlighted what the journalist, Tan Hoon Cheng, had said of her detention. She also articulated the words of Raja Petra’s wife regarding his detention.
The motion was then put forward by the President of the Malaysian Bar. Proceedings were then opened to the floor. Ambiga then called for any members who oppose the Motion to express their views. No one came forward.
Ambiga then invited Syamsuriatina Ishak to explain to members the work of the Human Rights Committee and the periodic trips to Kamunting. Tina said that periodic trips are conducted by members of the Committee to Kamunting to visit the detainees. Tina informed members that the work of the Committee has been greatly appreciated by the detainees and that she hoped that more members of the Bar would participate in the work being done.
Several members expressed their views. Dipendra Harshad Rai asked whether Council has any other plan such as to bring the motion to higher bodies. Ambiga thanked Dipendra and agreed that the Council will look at it. Latheefa Koya agreed with Dipendra. She suggested the Bar do things in solidarity with Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA.
Ravindra Kumar spoke of his experience visiting the detainees in Kamunting. He said it was very intimidating and could be described as a hell hole. He said the lawyers detained there were visibly affected and appeared to be under severe mental anguish. He said that not enough is being done for them.
Mah Weng Kwai said that there was support from the international community and as President of LawAsia, it will be discussed at their next meeting.
Renuka Balasubramaniam highlighted the lack of resources faced by the Human Rights Committee and the Legal Aid Committee and urged members to come forward to assist in any way they could.
Haji Sulaiman Abdullah pointed out that the ISA is of our own making and is not inherited from our colonial past. He highlighted the freedom of the press. He said that there is now constant discussion in the mainstream media about the ISA and we should protect this vigorously.
Chew Swee Yoke said that Uthayakumar had been deprived of his medication and was being given some other medication that he was told is similar. He has also been deprived of his diabetic diet.
The motion was then put to a vote. It was carried unanimously. The meeting then ended about 12.10pm.
THE MALAYSIAN BAR:
(a) Outraged that the Internal Security Act 1960 ('ISA') has recently been used to arrest Raja Petra Kamaruddin (a blogger), Tan Hoon Cheng (a journalist) and Teresa Kok (a member of Parliament);
(b) Deeply concerned that at present, there are more than 60 individuals detained under the ISA;
(c) Reiterating its earlier call, by its resolution of 15 March 2008, for the immediate and unconditional release of all persons presently detained without trial, including Manoharan a/l Malayalam, Uthayakumar a/l Ponnusamy, Kengadharan a/l Ramasamy, Ganabatirau a/l Veraman and Vasantha Kumar a/l Krishnan;
(d) Asserting the importance of upholding the Rule of Law, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution and the Rukunegara;
(e) Reaffirming the Bar's continued and unequivocal opposition to the ISA and all laws that allow for the detention of persons without trial, as they are unconstitutional, oppressive and undermine the Rule of Law;
(f) Taking note that, as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Government must fulfil the pledges it made, inter alia, to "promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms" and to promote "a free media, including in cyberspace"; and
(g) Deeply concerned that on 11 September 2008, the Government sent show–cause letters to three newspapers namely, Sin Chew Daily, The Sun and Suara Keadilan, regarding the reporting of certain issues.
NOW RESOLVES AS FOLLOWS, THAT:
1. The Malaysian Bar strongly condemns the arrests of Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Tan Hoon Cheng and Teresa Kok and strongly calls upon the Government to immediately and unconditionally release Raja Petra Kamaruddin, who is still being detained.
2. The Malaysian Bar strongly calls upon the Government to immediately and unconditionally release all persons presently detained without trial, including Manoharan a/l Malayalam, Uthayakumar a/l Ponnusamy, Kengadharan a/l Ramasamy, Ganabatirau a/l Veraman and Vasantha Kumar a/l Krishnan, who were ordered to be detained for two years from 13 December 2007.
3. The Malaysian Bar strongly calls upon the Government to immediately repeal the ISA and all other laws that allow for the detention of persons without trial such as the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 and Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985.
4. The Malaysian Bar strongly condemns the issuance of the three show–cause letters to Sin Chew Daily, The Sun and Suara Keadilan and strongly calls upon the Government to immediately withdraw the show–cause letters.
5. The Malaysian 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.
6. The Malaysian Bar calls upon the Government to demonstrate its commitment to, and to uphold, the Rule of Law as enshrined in the Federal Constitution and the Rukunegara.