Media Statement – 8/9/2020
128 infected in the Sabah Covid-19 lock-up cluster following arrest and detention of infected – Lack of regulations, lock-up condition and overcrowding contributory factors.
Foreigners who became undocumented because of the pandemic should not be arrested, or treated as illegal migrants
MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) reiterates our call for lock-up and prison reforms, in the light of recent report when Malaysia recorded a massive jump in new Covid-19 cases on 7/9/2020, with 62 cases, of which 50 were from the new Benteng Lahad Datu Covid-19 cluster in Sabah, which emerged due to condition of lockups that allowed infections to spread rapidly, the Health Ministry said today. (Malay Mail, 7/9/2020)
Today (8/9/2020), there were 100 new Covid cases, and 62 of these cases originated from the Benteng Lahad Datu cluster in Sabah(Malay Mail, 8/9/2020). This brings the total infected in the Benteng Lahad Datu Covid-19 cluster to 128.
“Based on the risk analysis performed, the transmission of Covid-19 for this cluster was due to the cramped and crowded lockup quarters. It was found that physical distancing was also hard to implement. This is the main factor contributing to Covid-19 infections among inmates,” Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement (Malay Mail, 7/9/2020)
A total of 66 positive cases from the cluster registered thus far, Dr Noor Hisham said 64 of them involved inmates while two more involved a prison guard and his nephew.
It all started with the arrest of infected persons who were then detained with other Covid-19 free detainees. The source of this Sabah cluster was traced back to the arrests of two undocumented migrants who were then held in police custody at the Lahad Datu police headquarters on August 24.
MADPET and others, have previously highlighted this risk, where it was suggested that alleged Movement Control Order(MCO) violators and others suspected of small crimes should not be arrested, and thereafter detained with others especially during this pandemic – the risk of Covid-19 infection is simply too high.
It is sad that this is happening almost 5 months after the beginning of the Covid pandemic, and Malaysia has failed to learn from past experiences, especially after from the past cases of infections in Malaysia’s Immigration Detention Depots, where to date there have been infections at the Bukit Jalil Detention Depot (650 infections and 1 death), Sepang(72 infections), Semenyih(65), Semenyih 2(1) and Putrajaya(2).
The introduction of possibly infected persons to an otherwise Covid-free community in detention facilities must end. Testing and mandatory 14-day quarantine is a must. Temporary detention in already gazetted quarantine centres is an option.
MADPET urges that new regulations be put in place in all detention facilities, including police lock-ups, which would include the non-introduction of new detainees to detainee population until they have first been tested and/or quarantined, to ensure social distancing whereby there must be no overcrowding.
Persons who do not have to be remanded to enable authorities to complete investigations should not be.
Malaysians already know that remand of suspects is really not necessary for the purposes of investigation, as was demonstrated in many cases involving prominent persons including the case of former Prime Minister, who has now been convicted of 7 crimes of abuse of power, corruption and money laundering.
Remand should never be used as a form of ‘punishment’ by authorities, and one must never forget the only purpose of remand is for the purpose of investigation only.
After arrest, suspects can always be released on police bail, their passports could be seized to counter flight risk, and there could be other conditions placed, like turning up at the station for investigation at a particular day and time. There is no need to place them in remand.
The need for general improvement of Malaysia’s already overcrowded detention facilities to meet with international standards must be a government priority.
Malaysian Prisons Department Deputy Director-general (Security and Correctional) Datuk Alzafry Mohamed Alnassif Mohamed Adahan, was recently reported saying that there are currently ‘68,000 prison inmates are currently housed in 42 prisons nationwide…’ and that this ‘…number exceeded the prescribed capacity of 52,000…“ (Sun Daily, 8/8/2020).
About 25% of them are remand pre-trial prisoners, and the problem for many maybe poverty and thus inability to afford to pay the bail amount. The government should really release a majority of these pre-conviction prisoners on reduced bail or even personal bond, especially when they are being charged and tried for not so serious crimes that did not cause injury or death.
Migrants who became undocumented after the MCO began
Certain categories of undocumented migrants should never have even be arrested and detained. This could include:-
- Those whose permits and/or social visit passes expired, and could not return to their home countries because of travel restrictions;
- Those whose permits/visas could not be renewed because even Immigration Departments were closed during the start of the MCO;
- Those whose permits could not renewed or extended because of loss of jobs as their employer’s business were affected by the pandemic; and
- Those who were documented migrant workers, who had an employment agreement for 3-5 years, who now cannot renew their permits because of a sudden change in Malaysian government’s policy restricting the sectors allowed to employ migrant workers
Many foreigners have no choice but to remain in Malaysia since there is still major restrictions of travel out of Malaysia back to their country of origin. There could be other reasons, including the failure of employers to yet provide for their flight tickets back home. Many have simply become too poor by reason of loss of jobs and/or income to now even afford to go back. Malaysia provided financial assistance to Malaysians, but not to migrants – including documented migrants.
Malaysia may want to provide for an amnesty to all these categories of foreigners and migrant workers, which will include no arrests and detentions until the end of movement control orders, and the restoration of international air travel.
We want Malaysian migrants in other countries to be cared for by those countries they are in, and as such Malaysia, must set an example by being a caring government, and should also look into providing assistance to foreigners to help them survive in Malaysia during this pandemic until they are able to return home.
For and on behalf of MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
Dr Noor Hisham: Crowded lockup to blame for rapid spread of Benteng Lahad Datu cluster
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 — The new Benteng Lahad Datu Covid-19 cluster in Sabah emerged due to the cramped and crowded condition of lockups that allowed infections to spread rapidly, the Health Ministry said today.
Earlier today, Malaysia recorded a massive jump in new Covid-19 cases today, with 62 cases, of which 50 were from the aforementioned cluster that first emerged on September 1.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the source of the cluster was traced back to the arrests of two undocumented migrants who were then held in police custody at the Lahad Datu police headquarters on August 24.
Both inmates tested positive for Covid-19 on August 31 and were admitted to Lahad Datu Hospital for treatment.
“Based on the risk analysis performed, the transmission of Covid-19 for this cluster was due to the cramped and crowded lockup quarters.
“It was found that physical distancing was also hard to implement. This is the main factor contributing to Covid-19 infections among inmates,” he said in a statement here.
Dr Noor Hisham reiterated the importance of complying with the standard operation procedures, adding that they must be practised at all times regardless of place.
With a total of 66 positive cases from the cluster registered thus far, Dr Noor Hisham said 64 of them involved inmates while two more involved a prison guard and his nephew.
After the first index case was reported, Dr Noor Hisham said 1,404 people have been screened through the ministry’s active case detection and close contact screening measures.
“A total of 631 inmates, 98 prison staff, 157 family members, 78 police officers and 440 government agency officers have been screened with a positivity rate of 4.7 per cent,” he said.
The cluster involved two districts of Lahad Datu and Tawau in Sabah, of which 30 Malaysians and 36 non-Malaysians have so far tested positive.
In Lahad Datu, 420 people have been screened with 337 testing negative and 33 awaiting their results.
In Tawau, 984 people have been screened with 230 testing negative and 738 awaiting their results.- Malay Mail, 7/9/2020
Health Ministry: Malaysia records another Covid-19 spike today, with 100 new cases
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — Malaysia recorded another massive jump in new Covid-19 cases today, the Health Ministry has announced.
Of the 100 new cases registered today, 85 were local transmissions with the remaining 15 imported.
According to the ministry, 62 of these cases originated from the Benteng Lahad Datu cluster in Sabah which first emerged on September 1.
The remaining 23 came from the Sungai cluster in Kedah that was confirmed yesterday.
Today’s figure is the highest since the recovery movement control order (RMCO) came into effect on June 10.
Previously, the highest number of daily reported cases during this period was 62 as was registered yesterday.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the 100 new cases today brought the cumulative infections in Malaysia to 9,559.
“Of this number, 295 are currently active and have been isolated and are undergoing treatment,” he said during his bi-weekly press conference.
The 15 import cases include six from India, two from Indonesia, and one each from Pakistan and the Philippines.
“Meanwhile 12 cases were reported to have recovered from Covid-19 today, bringing the total number of recoveries in Malaysia to 9,136 cases or 95.6 per cent of all total cases.
“Presently seven positive cases are being treated in intensive care units, with four requiring breathing assistance. There have been no deaths reported today, leaving the total number of deaths at 128 cases or 1.34 per cent of all total cases,” Dr Noor Hisham said.
The latest ministry statistics showed that 431 people have been screened in Lahad Datu with 87 testing positive, while in Sungai 470 have been screened in Kedah with 25 testing positive, five in Penang with no positives, and four in Perlis with one positive.
Due to the increase in infections, the director-general said the government took steps to tighten border control in relation to high-risk countries since yesterday.
“The Immigration Department has tightened the entry of citizens from 23 countries into Malaysia. Their entry will depend on the Long-Term Visit Pass, and is applicable to citizens from countries which have recorded a cumulative excess of 150,000 Covid-19 cases or more.
“This is one of the steps taken to secure border control. The ministry will continue the risk-assessment of countries worldwide, with the latest list of countries facing restrictions to be updated and announced by the government from time to time,” he said.
From July 24 to yesterday, approximately 29,330 individuals arriving to Malaysia were placed at quarantining stations.
Of this number, 237 have since tested positive for Covid-19, with the
bulk from India at 42 cases, followed by the Philippines at 27 cases,
and Indonesia at 26 cases. _Malay Mail, 8/9/2020