Irene Fernandez has finally triumphed and been vindicated after a 13-year ordeal with the Sword of Damocles of a disenfranchising prison sentence hanging over her head for doing her duty to uphold truth and justice – the publication of the memorandum “Abuse, Torture and Dehumanised Conditions of Migrant Workers in Detention Centres” in 1995.
I had highlighted Irene’s expose of the torture, ill-treatment and deaths in the immigrant detention centres.
Instead of thanking her for revealing the truth of the shocking conditions in the detention centres, Irene was arrested and prosecuted under Section 8A (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 for publishing “false news”.
Irene’s acquittal is not the result of any change of heart or reformist impulse in the system of justice, whether involving the Attorney-General’s Chambers or the judiciary, but because of sheer incompetence and ineptitude in the system of justice after a grave miscarriage of justice in the charging of Irene 13 years ago.
At least two things must be accomplished to give full meaning to Irene’s final triumph for her fortitude and sacrifice after a 13-year ordeal, viz:
• Repeal “false news” offence of the Printing Presses and Publications Act, which had been used to persecute and victimise advocates of justice, freedom and human rights – Penang Chief Minister and DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng was one such victim; and
• Humane treatment to migrant workers.