Don’t let Poca detainees’ families suffer, says Surendran

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PETALING JAYA: The government must ensure that the dependents of those detained under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) are taken care of, says PKR N Surendran.

The Padang Serai MP said since Poca allows “ordinary criminals” to be held without trial, their families should have their livelihoods looked after by the authorities.

“These are not terrorists, these are just so-called ordinary criminals.

“If they are going to be deprived of normal legal process, and they’re going to be charged in court and have no opportunity of being acquitted or bailed out, then the government must take responsibility for the wives and children who are left out there to starve,” Surendran told FMT yesterday.

His comments came after the wife of salesman Vishnu Moorthy Raja Singgam challenged the 21-day remand order against him under Poca on April 10.

A Magaswarie, who is six months pregnant, filed the notice of appeal on behalf of her husband who was detained on March 29 over a foreign exchange investment scheme in which about 20,000 investors were said to have been cheated.

Her lawyer P Uthayakumar filed a certificate of urgency to have the High Court hear Vishnu’s appeal as soon as possible.

Uthayakumar had said Vishnu was wrongly detained without trial under Poca, and was only working as a salesman in the investment company when he was unduly implicated along with five other detainees who are at the management level.

Surendran said if it was true that Vishnu was wrongly detained, the fact that his wife is pregnant made the whole case “outrageous”.

He also claimed that Malaysia is the only country that calls itself a democracy and yet resorts to detention without trial for ordinary offences.

“Whether they are organised crimes or whatever, they are still ordinary crimes,” he said.

“Ordinary crimes should be dealt with under the Criminal Procedure Code which allows a remand of up to 14 days after which the person is either released or charged.

“You cannot detain people without trial in the case of ordinary crimes. Poca is an unconstitutional law and it must be repealed,” he added.

Uthayakumar said Magaswarie and the family were also denied their rights to meet Vishnu.

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen told FMT that relatives are normally allowed to visit the detainees, but the process is often strict as authorities treat each case with security in mind.

“Oftentimes, the family only gets to make their first visit after more than a week of detention or longer,” he said

“The terrible thing about detention without trial is that it is often forgotten that the spouse and family members of the detainees suffer too.”

He said the practice of detention without trial needs to be abolished.

“If the person is guilty then he should be charged in a court of law with evidence and witnesses,” he added.

“Detention without trial is cruel and unjust to both the detainees and their family members.”

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