Malaysian PM promises priority to human rights

April 8th, 2009 - 11:39 am ICT by IANS  

Hindraf Kuala Lumpur, April 8 (IANS) Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has promised a review of the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA) and other preventive laws as part of his government’s emphasis on human rights and civil liberties.
Razak, who last week released 13 ISA detainees including an Indian national and two activists of a banned Hindu body, said the law would not be used arbitrarily.

He had said that he was doing so “in a spirit of reconciliation” and that his decision, taken on the day he was sworn in as the prime minister, was “in national interest”.

“Several provisions (of the ISA) will reflect our intention to uphold civil liberties and establish a check and balance so that the ISA is not used arbitrarily or according to the whim of the authorities without regard for the fundamental rights of the people of Malaysia,” he told a group of journalists from Indonesia Tuesday.

Two leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), S. Ganabatirau and S. Kengadharan, were released while three more - M. Manorahan, P. Uthayakumar and Vasanth Kumar - are in jail for two-year terms that end in December.

The ISA’s review should include studies on the police’s power to detain suspects, and the appointment of special officers to handle such cases, said Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar.

Under the act, the police can detain a suspect for 60 days for investigation and the home minister can issue an order to extend the period.

“To challenge this is difficult. Maybe this thing can be studied, or referred to court,” The Star quoted him as saying Tuesday.

He said it was also important to review the interpretation of national security and public order, two crucial elements that have always been the basis of the detention of individuals under the ISA.

Razak said his decision to release 13 ISA detainees recently was a government gesture which gave importance to the fundamental rights and civil liberties “of a modern, mature and civilised society”.

Explaining the “One-Malaysia” concept, he said it was mutual respect and trust among all the ethnic groups in the country.

He described the three major groups - majority Malays, about 33 percent Chinese and eight percent Indians - as the “pillar of national solidarity”, New Straits Times said.

“This concept must be translated into action, for example, the allocations for Chinese and Tamil schools should be given directly to the school boards.

“No ethnic group should feel marginalised in terms of government policies and programmes.”

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