Opposition leaders say the government’s silence over the Kamunting hunger strike proves it does not know what transformation means.
PETALING JAYA: PKR has accused Putrajaya of being indifferent to human suffering, citing as evidence the lack of a response from the Home Ministry to the on-going hunger strike by eight ISA detainees at the Kamunting prison.
“The Home Minister is so indifferent and uncaring that he needs a week to respond to the matter,” PKR vice-president N Surendran said today.
“Should anything happen to these detainees, the ministry must bear full responsibility.”
The hunger strike has gone on for more than two weeks. Some of the strikers are not even taking water.
The Home Ministry has so far been silent over the issue, except for Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s Twitter message last Sunday that he would give his comment “next week”.
The current hunger strike at Kamunting is the second since May, when detainees went without food for about a week to pressure the government to give an update on the status of their detention in the wake of the ISA’s repeal.
The current round is staged by four Malaysians, four Sri Lankans and one Indian national. Another Malaysian, Razali Kasan, became too weak to go on and ended his fast last Thursday.
Responding to the first hunger strike on May 26, Hishammuddin said the government would not succumb to “threats” by the detainees and that it was standing by its decision to continue to detain the 45 people still held under the ISA.
He reportedly said: “The new law [Security Offences [Special Measures] Bill 2012] has to be gazetted. The new law also says that those who have been charged [under] earlier [laws] are not affected [by the new law].”
Hishammuddin had said in April that he would personally look into individual cases of ISA detainees to determine whether any could be released sooner than later.
Surendran said the detainees should be released immediately and charged in court under appropriate laws.
He said neither Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak nor Hishammuddin seemed to understand why the ISA was repealed.
“We wanted those detained not to be held without proof of guilt,” he said. “The ISA has been repealed on paper, but the fact is that these people are still detained without proof.”
He added that advanced western countries were more prone that Malaysia to terrorist attacks, and yet could survive without any law as draconian as the ISA.
“Just use the available laws to prosecute them. The police and intelligence should beef up their capacity instead of detaining people without proof.”
DAP Youth chief Anthony Loke said the government knew only how to talk about transformation.
“The government wants to show the public that they are capable of transforming; so they repeal the ISA. But do they care about the wellbeing of the ones still detained under the act?”
He said he could undertand that the matter of releasing the detainees was complicated, but added that the Home Ministry needed to respond to the hunger strike nonetheless.
“The least the ministry can do is really look into the individual cases,” he said.
In a reply to a question about his dinner choice of lamb chops, Hishammuddin said: “Pilihan mereka, lamb chops pilihan aku,” which can be rendered as “Their choice is to go on a hunger strike, my choice is to have lamb chop.” The tweet ends with a semi-colon, normally interpreted as a wink.
“This merely shows how arrogant the ministers are,” Loke said. “They are heartless because they have never suffered such hardship. Really what transformation are they taking about when this response is just downright arrogant?”
Surendran said he could not believe that Hishammuddin would be so insensitive.
“It is a plain stupid comment and I cannot believe that he said that. How callous and cruel can he get?”