Kuala Lumpur—A 67-year-old Singaporean man is suing the Immigration Department of Malaysia for RM2.67 million (S$ 875,000) because of what he claims to have been “inhuman” treatment while he was jailed.
All in all, he spent 37 days in an overcrowded jail cell.
The Malay Mail reports that Puis Gilbert Louis was arrested shortly past 10pm at his home in Johor Bahru on October 9 of last year when Malaysian immigration officers raided his house.
According to Mr Puis’ lawyer, Arun Kasi, his client’s visa for his stay in Malaysia was valid until November 7, 2018.
Along with Mr Puis, a Filipina friend, who also had a valid visa for Malaysia, as well as three of her acquaintances, were at his house at that time.
Mr Puis claims that he did not know the country of origin nor the immigration status of his female friend’s acquaintances. He speculated that this was the reason for his arrest.
However, he noted that he was not charged for illegally harbouring the three individuals who were at his home on the night of his arrest. In fact, he was not told whether or not this was why he was detained by the immigration officials.
The Singaporean said he was able to use his phone to tell his friends and family about the arrest via Facebook. He was taken to the Setia Tropika immigration office, where officers took his personal belongings.
He spent one night at the Setia Tropika immigration centre, along with one hundred other detainees. Mr Puis claims he slept on a “bare dirty floor” that night. The next day he was brought to the Pekan Nanas immigration camp.
Mr Puis claimed to have had difficulty in breathing during the transfer to the immigration camp, as he is both claustrophobic and asthmatic. He was then given a seat near a window in the vehicle, which caused him to get wet in the heavy rain. Moreover, the vehicle contained 30 people and was allegedly only an 8-seater.
At the immigration camp, Mr Puis was kept in a cell built to house 50 people, but there were 130 individuals during the duration of his stay there, which lasted for 36 days until November 14.
In his statement of claim, Mr Puis said, “The condition was so horrifying and terrifying that ordinarily it would not be expected that any human being would be kept under that condition.
The toilet was within the cell and was dirty and open. No clean water was available for drinking. Food was provided in an unhygienic condition.
Many of the detainees did not take a bath for long… Many of them were scratching their bodies badly and diseases including herpes were spreading.
A small bottle of drinking water cost RM10. Purchase was limited by amount and time.”
Mr Puis also claimed that the ventilation in the cell was poor, which led to poor hygiene for the detainees, who also had to sleep on the bare, cramped space, and that they were never given a change of clothing, toiletries, blankets, pillows, or footwear.
He was only able to change his clothes once when immigration officers brought him to his house so that they could watch a video via CCTV. And he only showered after 10 days, after buying soap at an exorbitant price. The payments for his needs were taken from his wallet and the money that his visitors gave him.
He also claimed that since his fellow detainees saw him as wealthy, he was forced to buy items for them in order to avoid getting hurt.
The statement of claim also included a portion where he stated that he had gotten sick and lost much weight during his stay at the camp, but was only able to seek medical help after his release.
Mr Puis’ lawyer said that he was only able to visit the Singaporean as a friend, and not in the capacity as his legal representative.
Furthermore, the statement of claim also said what Mr Puis’ experienced in the immigration camp was by no means unusual, and that many detainees were cut off from communication with the world for a long period of time.
“The conditions of detention transgressed all basic standards of detaining humans and was without regard to any minimum standards of humanity and inflicted cruelty against humanity.”
The Singaporean is now claiming that his treatment while detained was “torture” and it was “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment” (CIDTP) under the definitions in international conventions, and that this is a transgression of Articles 5 and 7(1) of the Federal Constitution.
According to Article 7(1), “no one shall be punished for actions that were not punishable by law when it was taken, and no one shall suffer greater punishment for an offence than prescribed by the laws existing then.”
While Mr PUis wrote to the Immigration director-general on November 1, 2018, he received no answer. On November 9 his lawyers filed a habeas corpus application at the High Court. However, on the day before his hearing for this application, November 15, he was released on a seven-day special pass, whereupon he left Malaysia.
Since he was never given an explanation for his release, Mr Puis is now claiming that his arrest was unlawful. No investigations were made, nor were any charges against him files. Neither has he ever faced a judge for any offense.
His detention is a breach of Article 5(4), which says that non-Malaysians who get arrested are not allowed to be detained for longer than 14 days without being brought in front of a judge.
The lawsuit against Malaysia’s Immigration Department and the Malaysian government was filed on May 28 at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.
Mr Puis seeks RM 840,000 (S$ 27,500) in aggravated damages over distress suffered during his arrest and throughout his detention as well as the alleged continued stress after release.
He also seeks “RM1.83 million (S$ 600,000) in exemplary damages, including RM 700,000 (S$229,000) over his detention without his heart medication that allegedly put his life at risk, RM370,000 (S$ 121,000) for infringement of the Constitution by not presenting him before a magistrate, RM360,000 (S$ 118,000) for the conditions he was detained under, and RM 100,000 (S$ 33,000) each for four items including for failing to provide basic toiletries and necessities, and violation of constitutional safeguards linked to arrest and for unlawful arrest,” according to Malay Mail.
Part of Mr Puis’s demands is also a statement that he was subjected to torture and treatment.
His legal counsel has said that the court papers for the lawsuit have been submitted to the Attorney General’s Chambers./ TISG