‘Detention of Malaysian Indian leaders against law’

April 3rd, 2008 - 3:17 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, April 3 (IANS) The detention of five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders under the stringent Internal Security Act (ISA) is unconstitutional as due process of law was not followed, their counsel has told the Malaysian Federal Court. Lawyer-lawmaker Karpal Singh said the five who were arrested on Dec 13 last year should have been first detained for up to 60 days for investigations by the police and not sent direct to the Kamunting detention centre.

“This deprived them of an opportunity to exculpate themselves so that the police could recommend to the internal security minister not to send them to the Kamunting detention centre.”

Instead, he said, the minister signed orders to place them in the centre for up to two years immediately after their arrest, New Straits Times said Thursday.

“The five have been deprived of their personal liberty in defiance of the law,” Karpal Singh said in his submission Wednesday.

Lawyers M. Manoharan, 46, V. Ganabatirau, 34, P. Uthayakumar, 46, and R. Kenghadaran, 40, along with Hindraf coordinator K. Vasantha Kumar, 34, are appealing after the applications they had filed seeking their release and other orders were dismissed by the high court in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 29 on grounds that the detention was lawful.

Karpal Singh said this was “a test case” because two detainees in earlier cases did not challenge the minister’s decision to immediately hold them under preventive laws without police investigations.

“This issue was not taken up or argued and neither was it addressed by the court.”

He said the apex court should now clarify whether preventive law detainees could be sent straight to detention centres without police investigations.

He called on judges Alauddin Mohamad Sherif, Arifin Zakaria and Hashim Yusuf “to act without fear or favour and exercise judicial creativity”.

Karpal Singh further said the minister’s order against the five was done “in a cavalier fashion and was tantamount to bad faith”.

“What the minister did amounts to exercise of dictatorial powers. The judiciary is the last bastion to prevent excesses of the executive.”

He said the five had, at best, only organised a rally that attracted about 30,000 people to the streets.

“Was that act against national interest?

“Upon arrest, they were sent to Kamunting and all constitutional safeguards accorded to them were thrown out of the window without utter regard,” Karpal Singh said, adding that he understood better the plight of the five because he was once an ISA detainee.

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail will reply on behalf of the government.

The government has rejected appeals for the release of the five. It would go by “national interests”, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar has said.

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