Malaysian court awards former ISA detainees RM4.55m for wrongful detention

Five former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees today won damages totalling RM4.55 million (S$1.71 million), including interests as an appellate court found that their detention was unlawful as they had been detained for their political beliefs.

A three-man Court of Appeal bench chaired by Datuk Abdul Wahab Patail, who partially allowed the government’s appeal to reduce damages, said the grounds of detention were frivolous and devoid of merit.

“The five were not a threat to national security,” said Abdul Wahab.

The five are Batu MP Tian Chua, Hulu Kelang assemblyman Saari Sungib, PKR supreme council member Dr Badrul Amin Baharom, and activists Hishammudin Rais and Badaruddin Ismail.

They were held without trial between 41 and 51 days in 2001.

Lawyer Razlan Hadri Zulkifli, who appeared for the five together with Ranjit Singh and Ho Kok Yew, told The Malaysian Insider that the quantum was reduced but still amounted to RM10,000 in damages for every day they were illegally held.

They were also awarded RM30,000 in exemplary damages and another RM100,000 for defamation.

“But this is exclusive of the 8% interest awarded by the court to be paid from the day the suits were filed until the judgment sum is realised,” he said, adding that the final amount could be in the region of RM4 million.

In October 2001, the then-High Court judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan who awarded the five RM4.06 million in damages had also said their detention, under the now repealed ISA, was unlawful.

The award then was RM15,000 a day in relation to the total number of days that the five plaintiffs were detained.

Lau also awarded Tian Chua, Hishammudin, Saari, Badrulamin and Badaruddin RM60,000 in general damages and RM40,000 in aggravated damages on the grounds that words uttered by former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai during a press conference in April 2001 in relation to their detention were defamatory.

The court also awarded RM200,000 as costs.

Lau highlighted in her ruling that the detention was more likely due to political consideration than the fact that they were possible threats to national security.

The five had sued Norian and two others for unlawful detention under the ISA and for defamation.

*Article first appeared on…

TRS Editor’s Note:

​Meanwhile in Singapore, despite claiming to be much more advanced than Malaysia, we still lag far behind in aspects such as this.

Singapore also has many former ISA detainees but far from being recognised as being falsely imprisoned and being compensated, as Malaysia is now doing, the former ISA detainees in Singapore continue to be outcast.

During the time that Lee Kuan Yew was in power, he threw many of his political opponents in jail claiming that they were “communist insurgents” despite no hard evidence to indicate that they had violent tendencies.

Dozens of Lee’s Political opponents as well as union leaders and activists were arrested in pre-dawn raids and thrown into jail. This was all done to cripple the opposition and ensure that the PAP could stay in power.

To this day, most of the detainees have never been proven guilty before a court of law and some remain exiled and forbidden to return to Singapore.

While Malaysia is paying compensation to wrongfully detailed persons, Singapore continues to silence their side of the story as seen in the recent banning of To Singapore, With Love.

It seems that PAP is not ready to face their ugly past and while economically Singapore may be better than Malaysia, this type of issue shows just how far behind we are in other areas.

In fact, Singapore still has the ISA which gives the government broad power to detain people without trial on the grounds that they are a threat to security. Malaysia has already repealed their ISA.


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