Remembering 87/88 August 23, 2007Posted by elizabethwong in Current Affairs, History, Human Rights, Malaysia, Politics.
With the criminal justice system under the public microscope of late, a number of former key players (then Attorney-General Abu Talib Othman and then Inspector-General of Police Haniff Omar) no doubt feel compelled to suggest how things were so much better during their time.
Yeah. Right. Hah.
An interesting but unsurprising interview on Malaysiakini, was given by Abu Talib today, touching on the turbulent years of 87/88, which saw the arrests of more than 100 people under the Internal Security Act and the demise of judicial independence.
Abu Talib conceded that many decisions he had made during his tenure as AG were controversial but defended his actions as it was done based on applicable law.
What Abu Talib didn’t detail was that the amendment to the ISA centred on the right to judicial review. Thanks to this, a Ministerial Order to incarcerate a person without trial effectively cannot be challenged in court.
Part of the amendment reads:
5(2) “prohibits any action, suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding from being brought, instituted or mainted in respect of any detention order or detention ….”
In those few words, Abu Talib and the Mahathir regime had erased one of the most fundamental principles of justice – the right to seek remedy through the courts.
There’s a little story behind this (available in Dr. Kua Kia Soong’s ‘445 days behind the wire‘. Kua was one of those detained in 1987). I’m relying on memory for now, as my copy is with Mr B.
Karpal Singh, also detained during Operasi Lalang, decided to file his own habeas corpus writ. Kua was one of those who helped Karpal type his affidavit on a creaky Kamunting typewriter, since Karpal didn’t know how to use it and he couldn’t bring in his secretaries.
So the Tiger of Jelutong took off to the Ipoh High Court of Malaya on 9th March 1988, and naturally succeeded in winning his own case. The court had ruled that his detention was unlawful.
Alas, he was arrested on the same day at a police roadblock at Nibong Tebal, around 8.30 pm, and was returned to the warm bosoms of his comrades in Kamunting.
Mahathir was so incensed that the Tiger won, that the amendment was moved and passed in Parliament to stop Karpal and anyone who thought going to fair judges would be a good idea.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Operasi Lalang – 27 October 1987, which incidentally coincides with my personal political awakening, though expressed in simpler terms, e.g. – “Blistering barnacles! This government is bad…” – as I was a mere teen in a crumpled turquoise pinafore then.
Some wonderful quotes by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
(1987) “Laws such as the Internal Security Act have no place in modern Malaysia. It is a draconian and barbaric law.”
(1988) “If we want to save Malaysia and Umno, Dr Mahathir (then Prime Minister) must be removed. He uses draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act to silence his critics.”
(2003) “We have never misused the Internal Security Act. All those detained under the Internal Security Act are proven threats to society.”
1987. 1988. Never forget. Never surrender.