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10 APRIL 2024

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Deaths in detention: Ramkarpal accuses Hamzah of ignoring main issue

A DAP lawmaker has accused Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin of ignoring the main issue after he responded to a recent report of detainees dying in Sabah immigration centres by saying anyone can die anywhere.

Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh said the fact that the report highlighted appalling conditions in immigration detention centres was lost on the minister.

“Does Hamzah not realise that the gist of the concern in the said report was not about ‘predicting’ deaths in detention centres, but about appalling conditions in such centres?

“(The appalling conditions) prompted the report to observe, amongst others, that, ‘owing to the poor conditions in the immigration detention centre, detainees quickly turned into patients’,” Ramkarpal said in a statement today.

He was referring to a report released by the Sovereign Migrant Workers Coalition (KBMB) on June 25, which said the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta recorded 149 Indonesians who died in five Sabah detention centres over 18 months between 2021 and 2022.

The report titled “A Report from Hell: Conditions of the Immigration Detention Centres in Sabah” also revealed appalling conditions in these detention centres and toddlers being held there.

Hamzah was asked yesterday to respond to this report, to which he said he would be “great” if he could predict deaths in detention to prevent them. He then pointed out that anyone can die anywhere.

“If I knew someone was going to die and not place them in detention, I would be great.

“If we detain them, that means they have committed a crime. When someone has committed a crime, we are forced to follow the existing laws,” Hamzah had said.

Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin

Ramkarpal pointed out that the KBMB report is not the first time complaints and calls for reform have been made about the state of detention centres.

Suhakam had noted in its 2016 annual report that there were more than 100 deaths in immigration detention centres and 521 deaths in prisons in 2015 and 2016, while 12 people died in police lock-ups in 2015.

Reuters had reported in 2017 that 118 foreigners, including undocumented workers, refugees and asylum seekers, had died at detention centres in the last two years.

Detainees are human too

Ramkarpal said Hamzah, as the home minister, should understand that detainees have human rights, with the most important one being the right to life.

Hamzah must know that it is the government’s duty to ensure that the detainees have access to proper facilities and are given humane conditions in the detention centres, he added.

Ramkarpal also said that Hamzah’s view that once a person is detained it means that person has committed a crime, ignores the “elementary principle” that all detainees, except those who have been convicted, are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“Hamzah’s nonsensical remarks, particularly when addressing an issue relating to foreigners, does little to inspire confidence in our government in the eyes of the international community on matters pertaining to human rights in this country,” he added.

Instead of making such “absurd comments”, Ramkarpal said Hamzah should be addressing the concerns raised in the report and assure that the government is committed to improving the conditions in detention centres.

“His failure to do so will only further condemn this government as being utterly uninterested in implementing the much-needed reforms on this very important issue,” he added. - Mkini

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