The fight has not ended, it has just begun.
Let me first apologise to you for not having given you an update yesterday. It was a trying day, the culmination of a period of work and stress that began the day RPK was detained. Not just for me but for the other members of the team, in particular Ashok Kandiah and Neoh Hor Kee.
You would have read of how the application was originally fixed for the 26th of September. It was through the enormous efforts of both these lawyers that the hearing was brought forward as it was. It was also through their efforts that the necessary court papers and affidavits (statements on oath) by RPK were obtained as quickly as they were. It was primarily due to their efforts that when, as lawyers say, I got up on my hind-feet in court yesterday, we were ready to give it the best shot we could. I believe that the case we would have mounted for RPK would have been virtually unassailable.
But out attempts were impeded.
I say impeded because at this juncture we do not know whether the High Court is going to hear the original section 73 application now that the Minister has issued a detention order. A fresh application can also, and will be, filed to challenge that order. To be fair to the judge concerned, Suraya Othman J, she considered herself bound by precedent that she thought tied her hands. She acted fairly, albeit conservatively.
As much as some of us may think otherwise, RPK's case is one of many that the judge has to deal with. We must also keep in mind that the judge has not dismissed or struck out RPK's application even though this was what Federal Counsel sought. It is now for us to attempt to convince the judge that there is merit in proceeding with this application even though she will not be able to order the release of RPK based on this application alone. I would like to think that we still have a chance.
A second habeas corpus application will also be filed to challenge the Minister's order. We started working on it yesterday. In truth, we are handicapped; the ISA precludes comprehensive review of such an order. Added to this is the legal position that such an order is issued by the Minister at his subjective discretion. The courts have been reluctant to interfere with the Minister's discretion, save on procedural grounds, on the basis that, firstly, the law does not permit otherwise and secondly, the Minister knows best about national security.
This is the massive obstacle we are faced with.
This is one of the reasons why a section 73 detention is converted to a section 8 detention when the IGP is confronted with a habeas corpus application; the issuance of the Minister's order narrows the scope of review and permits the Minister to shield himself behind a veil of national security. RPK is not the first victim of such a strategy. We experienced the same difficulty during the so-called JI detentions in late 2002.
There are however peculiarities about RPK's detention that may give us footholds to ease our ascent. The media has reported that the Minister issued the detention order on the recommendations of the police. These pertained to the so-called anti-Islamic articles that RPK has supposed to be written. We at least know the basis of the detention and are able to bring it into focus when we get to court.
There are also no other legal tricks that can be pulled by the Ministry. The issuance of the detention order is as problematic for RPK as it can get. Some have said that this makes the detention virtually immune from challenge. I would like to think that the interests of justice can always be served if we remain hopeful of finding the path to it.
Every case in court brings us into uncharted territory and with it surprises. I have had my share. In 2001, Justice Hishamuddin ordered the release of Abdul Ghani Haroon and
RPK and the other civil society leaders who have shown us the way started a process to transform this country. This legal campaign is a part of it as is the mounting civil society pressure against the ISA that have spring-boarded off his detention and that of Theresa Kok, Tan Hoong Cheng and the HINDRAF 5. RPK knew what would happen and lent himself to the process. For that that reason above all, he is firmly ensconced in my mind as a patriot.