By Anisah Shukry
KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — At least 10 detainees held under the now-repealed Internal Security Act (ISA) have launched a hunger strike to demand their immediate release from the Kamunting Detention Camp, human rights group Suaram said today.
Suaram said family members told the organisation the detainees will continue with hunger strike, now in its fourth day, for as long as they remain in the detention centre.
“The hunger strike is the detainees’ last resort as they just want the government to release them,” Suaram executive director, Nalini Elumalai, told The Malaysian Insider.
“The ISA has already been repealed, so why are they still detained under that Act? If there is no evidence that they did anything wrong, then the government should have just released them.”
“To this date, none of them were charged in court since their detention,” she added.
Nalini further pointed out that while Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had said last month the ministry would consider releasing ISA detainees, no action has yet been taken.
“Suaram urges the Home Ministry to charge the detainees in an open court to resolve the hunger strike crisis and release them immediately,” she aded.
She also called for the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) to investigate the matter and publish their findings, saying that Suaram was unable to obtain the full details of the hunger strike as well as the detainees involved.
On April 17, Hishammuddin pledged to “look into the possibility” of releasing those currently detained under the ISA once its replacement law comes into force.
He noted that this was in the spirit of the new law, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill that was passed by the Dewan Rakyat to replace the 52-year-old ISA.
“So on that spirit, it is very important for us to look at those who are presently being detained... to see whether it is possible for us to release them as quick as possible,” Hishammuddin told a press conference in Parliament.
The Sembrong MP, however, added that the government “will have to see” whether those who would not be released would be tried in court for their alleged offences.
When tabling the new security law for second reading last month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said that the repeal of the ISA “will not affect” those currently detained under the law.
The new security law seeks to replace the highly-criticised ISA and is a part of the government’s slew of reforms aimed at increasing civil liberties.
Among others, the Bill removes the government’s right to detain a person without trial and reduces the maximum detention period from two years to 28 days.
Opposition lawmakers and civil society groups have long rallied for the ISA to be repealed, claiming that it infringes on basic human rights and denies a person the right to fair trial.