Free minors held under security law, say parents, groups

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Source: The Malaysian Insight

Sevan Doraisamy, Suaram, The Malaysian Insight pic by Kamal Ariffin, December 1, 2017.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia executive director Sevan Doraisamy says the Prevention of Crime Act is clearly a tool for the police to arrest a person without conducting a proper investigation. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Kamal Ariffin, December 1, 2017.

WHILE most 16-year-olds are going to school and enjoying life with family and friends, Ang Kian Kok spends his days lying down in his room or watching TV at home.

Ang never sets foot outside his home for two reasons: shame and fear. He is ashamed of the electronic monitoring device (EMD) he wears on his ankle which brands him as a detainee, and he is afraid of of getting arrested again if he should stray out of the 10km radius he is confined within.

The teenager was caught breaking into cars and in possession of stolen items.

Ang is one of 142 juveniles who have been arrested under the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca). He was earlier this year detained for 60 days, after which he was placed under Restricted Residence, which requires him to wear the EMD for two years.

His mother, housewife S. Dewagi, said she worries every day that her son will never lead a normal life again, and hopes that he will be allowed to remove the EMD before the end of the two years.

“My son can’t do anything now, he can only stay at home. He can  leave the house between 6am and 8pm, but he is too afraid to go far for fear of getting caught again.

“The furthest he has gone is 1km from the house.”

Dewagi said her son had dropped out of school prior to his detention and he was to have enrolled at a vocational school so that he could learn a trade. Since his arrest, however, he has retreated into himself, he said.

“We, as parents, want him to do something with his life; we hope he can learn a skill. But he is like this now, how is he going to study?”

She said she could not go into detail why her son was detained because the investigation was ongoing.

The EMD is used for those detained under Poca, which was amended in 2013 to allow for detention without trial. The law was meant to tackle serious and organised crime following the repeal of the Internal Security Act 1960.

Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has said that on top of the 142 juveniles, 17 minors have been arrested under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) since the law came into force.

Rights groups have slammed the use of Poca and similar security laws that they say are open to abuse by the authorities. That more than a hundred minors have been detained under Poca is shocking and a gross abuse of human rights, they say.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Sevan Doraisamy said the groups have referred to the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) “many cases” of alleged torture of Poca detainees, including juveniles.

“Poca is clearly a tool for the police to arrest a person without proper investigations, and now they are using it against children.

“Poca is supposed to be for hardcore criminals who have previous records, to enable their detention even though the police don’t have sufficient evidence

“But these are 16- and 17-year-olds. How are they hardcore criminals? It is unacceptable,” Sevan told The Malaysian Insight

Sevan called on the Home Ministry to all release the juveniles detained  under Poca, and to charge those who have a committed a crime in a court of law where they can be defended by a lawyer.

“The whole process is questionable and against the fundamental human rights that Malaysia is party to under the United Nations Convention on the rights of the Child (UNCRC),” he said.

Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (Proham) chairman Kuthubul Zaman said Poca was a clear violation of human rights, in particular the rights of a child, and urged the government to set up a royal commission of inquiry into the cases of juveniles detained under the act.

“This is a clear violations of the Convention on the rights of the Child.

“They must be released unconditionally if there is no evidence of criminal activity. Otherwise, charge them in Juvenile Court,” he said.

Packiam Amircham, 43, said she saw her 19-year-old son’s future fade away when he was arrested and detained under Poca.

Vikram Naidu was detained for gang fighting after he completed his SPM examinations in 2016. After the 60-day detention period, police sent him to Kluang prison.

“I had plans to send Vikram to college after his SPM but because of this incident we can’t do anything now.

“He was only a child when they threw him in jail. I was shocked and I was very sad to see him being treated that way,” she said.

Packiam said she reported her son’s case to Suhakam, which managed to get Vikram released after he had served four months of his two-year jail term. He was given the EMD to wear and placed under restricted residence.

“He is still serving his two-year sentence which will end in March 2018.

“But we don’t know if they will extend his sentence,” she said.