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Asian NGOs challenge SUHAKAM to take up ISA issues

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3isas_150x.jpgAsian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), in a letter today to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), urged the SUHAKAM to prove that it is worthy of an “A” status under the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) and that it is truly a national human rights institution earnest in the pursuit of promoting and protecting human rights in the country. Several national, regional, and international non-governmental organizations have endorsed the letter.

The ANNI also urged the SUHAKAM to take on the issue of the arrests of Mr. Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Ms. Tan Hoon Cheng, and Ms. Teresa Kok.

The three human rights defenders were arrested on 12 September 2008 under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Ms. Tan Hoon Cheng was released on 13 September 2008, but Mr. Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Ms. Teresa Kok are still under police custody.

The ANNI expressed deep concern for the well-being of Mr. Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Ms. Teresa Kok since numerous ISA detainees, past and present, have been known to be subjected to physical and mental torture, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The ANNI pointed out that under Section 4(2)(d) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act (1999), the SUHAKAM has the power “to visit places of detention in accordance with procedures as prescribed by the laws relating to the places of detention and to make the necessary recommendations.”

It thus called upon the SUHAKAM to use this power to ascertain the whereabouts of Mr. Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Ms. Teresa Kok, to ensure their well-being, and secure their release.

The ANNI also urged the SUHAKAM to help get an assurance from the government that there would not be any further arrests under the ISA and proactively advocate to abolish the ISA for being in clear violation of international human rights law.

For questions and clarifications, please do not hesitate to contact the Human Rights Defenders Programme of FORUM-ASIA at [email protected] or through tel. no. +66 2 653 2940 local 403.


Mr. Raja Petra Kamaruddin was arrested at around 1:10 pm on 12 September 2008 from his home in Sungai Buloh allegedly by police personnel from Bukit Aman. Mr. Raja Petra Kamaruddin is the founder of the website Malaysia Today. The reason for his arrest is allegedly because he posted articles ridiculing Islam and Muslims in his website.

Ms. Tan Hoon Cheng, a journalist, was arrested at around 8:30 pm on 12 September 2008 from her home in Bukit Mertajam. She had previously written an article reporting the racist statements of Mr. Ahmad Ismail, a member of the ruling party, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). She reported Mr. Ahmad Ismail making a statement that Chinese Malaysians are “squatters” in the country.

Ms. Teresa Kok, a Member of Parliament, was arrested at around 11:18 pm on 12 September 2008 as she was making her way back to her apartment. Ms. Teressa Kok had been reported recently to have claimed that she had requested the mosque officials of Kota Damansara, Sri Serdang, and Puchong Jaya to tone down the call to prayer. She has, however, denied that she had made such a request. In addition, the mosque officials in question also denied that they ceased sounding of the call to prayer because of any pressure from Ms. Teresa Kok.

Ms. Tan Hoon Cheng was released at 4:15 pm on 13 September 2008. Mr. Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Ms. Teresa Kok are still under police custody and their whereabouts are unknown.

Mr. Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Ms. Teresa Kok are reportedly being denied access to their lawyers. Sources also reveal that the government of Malaysia is currently holding a list of persons who will soon be arrested under the ISA.

You can read the letter to SUHAKAM here.