Monday, September 22, 2008

Don't expect caviar for ISA detainees

But at least provide decent meals for them...

DAP MP Teresa Kok who was detained for 7 days under the Internal Security Act, revealed that the food provided for her during police custody were similar to "dog food". [Malaysiakini, 19/9/08]

The Public Complaints Bureau (BCB) will meet Seputeh MP Teresa Kok on Monday to investigate claims that she was not given proper food during her detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA). [Malaysiakini, 21/9/08]

Teresa was held under the ISA after former Selangor Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mohd Khir Toyo and Utusan Malaysia columnist, Zaini Hassan accused her of campaigning against the Muslim Azan prayer call by mosques around Puchong and Kota Damansara. She was then released by the authorities on September 19 due to the lack of evidence.

Many have publicly condemned the arrest; as a result Zaid Ibrahim resigned from the Cabinet as Law Minister in protest of the unlawful arrest. Teresa is now seeking to sue Utusan Malaysia and Khir Toyo for defamation; reportedly for RM30 million.

Read: Whatever Utusan Malaysia says is true! for more details.

The Seputeh MP shared her experience while in police detention to reporters during a press conference organised by DAP. [Malaysiakini, 19/9/08]:
  • Upon her arrest, she was denied the right to make a telephone call to her lawyer or family.
  • She was confined to a 6 x 8 meter cell.
  • There was no air ventilation.
  • She had to spend the night on a wooden plank.
Teresa raised more eyebrows when she said she was served with what she likened as "dog food". She revealed that she was only given 2 hard boiled eggs, cucumber and gravy - twice a day (lunch and dinner).

She got the attention of the Public Complaints Bureau (PCB) who has promised to investigate Teresa's claims of the poor treatment she received during her detention. Deputy Minister of the Prime Minister's Department T. Murugiah said he, along with PCB officers will meet Teresa to acquire more information on the matter.

“I am shocked with Kok’s comments on the food. I will be handing in a report on my findings to the Home Minister and the Prime Minister,” he said. [The Star, 21/9/08]

If the Deputy Minister was shocked of Teresa's comments, he should get a cardiac arrest for this: The Star reported that only RM5.80 have been allocated a day for food for suspects in police lock-ups. Of course, T. Murugiah's heart was still functioning quite well when he said,
“If it is true, then it is definitely not enough especially with the price of goods going up. A detainee needs to have breakfast, lunch and dinner." [The Star, 21/9/08]
T. Murugiah who is also the chief of the PCB suggested that each detainee should be allocated RM10 a day for meals; including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“We want transparency. I’m quite serious about this and I dont want this to be swept under the carpet. I’m not happy that this news has gone international,” he said. [The Star, 21/9/08]
The Malaysian Bar Council have called on the government to immediately release all detainees under the ISA and charged them in a civil court. There are currently 60 people still detained under ISA and more than 2000 people imprisoned under various preventive laws. [Malaysiakini, 20/9/08]

The majority of Malaysians are not bothered if ISA detainees have caviar for breakfast or truffles for dessert. The unlawful detention of individuals without trial can never be justified with better living conditions. The ISA may be an obsolete piece of legislature but it's sting on freedom is still as painful as it was back then in the 1960's.