The remark by Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin that he would be “great” if he could predict deaths in detention is shocking and utterly unbecoming of a senior Minister.
In commenting on deaths in Sabah detention centres recently, Hamzah was quoted by Malaysiakini as saying,
“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’s comments are unnecessary and ignores the very title of the report he was commenting on – “A Report from Hell: Conditions of the Immigration Detention Centres in Sabah”, in which the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta recorded the deaths of 149 Indonesians in five Sabah detention centres over 18 months between 2021 and 2022.
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 which prompted the report to observe, amongst others, that,
“Owing to the poor conditions in the immigration detention centre, detainees quickly turned into patients”?
This is not the first time complaints and calls for reform have been made about the state of our detention centres.
In its 2016 annual report, Suhakam said there were more than 100 deaths in immigration detention centers and 521 deaths in prisons in 2015 and 2016. Twelve people died in police lock-ups in 2015.
In 2017, Reuters reported that 118 foreigners, including undocumented workers, refugees and asylum seekers, had died at detention centres in the last two years, more than half of whom were from Myanmar.
As Home Minister, Hamzah ought to understand that detainees have human rights as well, the most important of which, must be the right to life and that it is the duty of the government to ensure that they have access to proper facilities and are subjected to humane conditions in detention centres throughout the country.
Moreover, Hamzah’s view that once a person is detained, it means he/she has committed a crime, ignores the elementary principle that all detainees (save for 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.
Instead of making such absurd comments, Hamzah should instead address the concerns raised in the said report with assurances that the government is committed to improving the conditions in detention centres in the country to avoid more unnecessary fatalities in the future.
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.
Dated this 29th of June, 2022.
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
CHAIRMAN NATIONAL LEGAL BUREAU
DEMOCRATIC ACTION PARTY