Call for Hamzah’s sacking following ‘anyone can die anywhere’ comment

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Hamzah ignoring the main issue.

Johor PKR Youth legal bureau chief Lau Yi Leong has called for the sacking of Hamzah, pointing out that the government has shown no intention to investigate the rising cases of deaths in immigration custody.

“If the government still maintains any belief in human rights, I call upon Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to immediately remove Hamzah as home minister.

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“Form a Royal Commission of Inquiry and investigate conditions of the immigration detention centres, the widespread corrupt practice within the Immigration Department and the rising number of deaths in the immigration detention centres,” said Lau, adding that the move must be made with a view to implement urgent reforms to the immigration detention centres.

A report released by the Sovereign Migrant Workers Coalition (KBMB) on June 25 stated that the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta recorded the deaths of 149 Indonesians in five Sabah detention centres over 18 months between 2021 and 2022.

Further, Lau cited figures revealed by the Home Ministry in Parliament that 23 detainees had died in immigration detention centres between January and June 2020.

Compared to the KBMB report, the lawyer said the situation has worsened as the figures showed an increase in the average number of deaths per month, from 3.8 deaths every month to an average of 8.3.

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

Speaking in Putrajaya yesterday, Hamzah downplayed reports of deaths in immigration centres, saying that people should not be too quick to point fingers at the authorities.

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He said: “If we detain someone who commits a crime and we put him in a depot and he dies, who should we blame? Sometimes people die even while walking. They don’t even have to be in a depot. So, this should not be an issue.”

Meanwhile, 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.

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.