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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

'Govt should fix detention centres instead of charging activist'

 


MPs and senators from both sides of the political aisle have called upon the government to drop charges against Refuge for the Refugees founder Heidy Quah.

NGOs and civil society actors have similarly pledged their solidarity and questioned the government’s motives behind the legal action.

Quah was charged this morning over a June 2020 Facebook post about alleged mistreatment of refugees at immigration detention centres.

Instead of going after activists, the All Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia for the Reform of Prisons and All Places of Detention (APPGM) urged authorities to acknowledge the “deplorable” condition of such centres.

“The deplorable conditions of Malaysian detention centres is a well-documented and publicly known issue, highlighted by various organisations for years.

“It is an issue that requires the immediate attention of the administration if Malaysia wants to be taken seriously in relation to basic human rights.

“Instead, the current administration continues to disappoint with activists being charged, in an act of clear intimidation by the authorities, for offences relating to the exposure of such shameful conditions,” it said in a statement today.

The group thus hoped Putrajaya would focus on fixing overcrowded immigration detention centres to prevent more Covid-19 outbreaks from happening.

“Punishing those who speak up will not solve the problem nor cover up the truth.

“We call for the charges against Quah to be dropped and instead urge investment in alternatives to incarceration and on the long-overdue reforms for detention centres,” it said.

APPGM comprises Umno Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said, PBB Batang Lupar MP Rohani Abdul Karim, MIC senator Vell Paari, PKR Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, Warisan Sepanggar MP Mohd Azis Jamman and former DAP senator Liew Chin Tong.

In the group are also Universiti Malaya infectious diseases expert Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman and lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo.

NGOs question motives

Quah was earlier charged at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court under Section 233(1)(a) (Improper use of network facilities or network service) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

If convicted, the 27-year-old faces a maximum RM50,000 fine, one year jail, or both.

In a separate statement, 79 NGOs including Asylum Access Malaysia, Carefugees, North South Initiative, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, Yayasan Chow Kit and Tenaganita also demanded the charges to be dropped.

“Charging Quah for a Facebook post a year after it was first shared also raises questions about the government’s intention and motivation against an activist whose organisation has been actively providing life-saving food and basic aid to communities that have little support to depend on,” they said.

In the statement, which was also signed by 67 individuals, they called for an independent and transparent inquiry into alleged mistreatment inside immigration detention centres.

“Letting harm happen, especially to the vulnerable, is the real violence,” they stressed.

Similarly, NGO Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) condemned the government for charging Quah for speaking up about potential human rights violations.

It cautioned on the effect of such actions on whistleblowers.

“C4 condemns these acts of harassment and calls for the authorities to instead focus on investigating and addressing the complaints and issues that have been brought up.

“Thus, prosecuting the actual wrong-doers instead of charging whistleblowers for raising the issues in the first place,” it said.  - Mkini

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