|Syed Hamid’s U-turn on ISA arrests|
|Sep 15, 08 3:37pm|
|Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar has made a U-turn on a
remarkthat he was not involved in the detention of three individuals under the Internal Security Act (ISA) last Friday.
According to a front-page report today in Malay daily Utusan Malaysia, Syed Hamid now said he had approved the detentions on behalf of the government, in carrying out his duty as a cabinet minister and not as any ‘outsider’.
His comments were apparently a rebuttal of cabinet colleague, de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim, who yesterday condemned the arrests and said he would quit if the government continues to use the ISA.
When contacted by Utusan yesterday, Syed Hamid said the ISA crackdown was a government decision and no minister, including Zaid, should question it.
He also said the government would be dealt an administrative crisis if each minister offers a view and questions the jurisdiction of another minister via the media.
Utusan then quoted Syed Hamid as saying: “Zaid is in the cabinet, if he has his own views, he should bring it up with the prime minister (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi). If every cabinet member openly debates through the media, we will have an administrative crisis.
“If a cabinet member is doing his job while another one openly criticises him, I don’t know where we are heading and what will happen.”
On Saturday, Syed Hamid had said he had not ordered the arrests and that the decision to hold DAP Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin and Sin Chew Daily journalist Tan Hoon Cheng were made by the police on their own discretion.
Tan was released that evening, but the other two remain in police custody.
At the time, the minister reportedly said: “Under this action, the police need not refer to me. It’s their discretion and their assessment of what happened. There has been no malice on their part.”
He had also stressed he had not interfered with the police decision although he had been informed of the move.
“I am a minister. I am a politician. If I start to interfere, then people will say I have a political motive. It will send the wrong signal. I cannot interfere. This has to be done in accordance with the police exercise of their powers,” he had said.
Syed Hamid also subsequently claimed that Tan had been detained for her own safety, as death-threats had been made against her. However, this explanation has been widely panned.
Technically, the police are empowered to detain a person under the ISA for the initial 60-day period. The subsequent two-year detention order must be signed by the home minister.
The police force, nevertheless, comes under the jurisdiction of Syed Hamid as the home minister.