(Draconian laws like ISA may finally end but the question is why now and why not in 2009 or in 2010? Any law that allows the Government to hold anyone without any trials, no recourse to the courts and at the sole discretion of certain politicians in power is dangerous, unfair and allows for gross abuse. Image source: https://theindependent.sg/)
Mention of the Internal Security Act (ISA) in the past, one would think of national security, proactive actions to curtail attempts to create chaos and violence – that is until this happened in 2008:-
Tan Hoon Cheng, a reporter of the Chinese-language newspaper Sin Chew, was arrested Friday under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial. She was, however, freed Saturday. An opposition lawmaker and the editor of a pro-opposition news Web site were also detained under the ISA on Friday, but have not been released.
The action has drawn widespread criticism from opposition politicians, the Bar Council, human rights groups and now even by some in the government-controlled media.
Tan’s arrest “will go down in Malaysian history as the most controversial, if not most ridiculous,” Wong Chun Wai, the editor of the influential Sunday Star, wrote in a signed opinion piece.
On Saturday, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar defended the three detentions by saying they were necessary to prevent racial conflict. He said Tan, an ethnic Chinese, was arrested because police received information that her life had been threatened.
If that was the case, police should have given her protection instead of arresting her, said Malaysian Chinese Association youth wing chief Liow Tiong Lai. “It is not a clever excuse,” he said in a statement.
“To put it bluntly, the arrest was outrageous and went against the grain of natural justice,” Wong wrote. “In the eyes of the world, we are becoming more like a political basket case each day as old politicians attempt to bring back their outdated tricks,” he wrote.
When Najib took over the PM seat in April 2009, one of the first right thing he did was to release 13 people including the 2 key Hindraf activists from ISA detention. That act was laudable even though the arrests under ISA should not have happened in the first place. But back then there were no immediate plans to abolish ISA. Not in 2009 or in 2010.
So it was a big surprise to hear Najib in late 2011 announcing that the ISA will be abolished. It is a big surprise because only recently we saw the manner of his administration reacting on the Bersih 2.0’s electoral reforms rallies.
At this point, it is not clear if the announcement was made in good faith or to deny the Oppositions an important issue for up-coming general elections or simply a delaying tactic whilst a more terrible, severe laws are put in place (perhaps to ensure those in power remains in power?). We will only know what was the real intention once ISA has been actually repealed and the details of the new laws (which Najib says will be enacted to maintain peace, harmony and prosperity) comes under greater scrutiny.
But first, let’s look at the quotable quotes namely the “180-degree turn statements” from the politicians from the ruling party who earlier did not actively push for abolishment of such draconian laws:-
MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek – the announcement made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on the Internal Security Act (ISA) repeal was not a mere “proposal”. “It is something which will be implemented,”
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin – There should be no doubt over the government’s intention to do away with the Internal Security Act
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak – Barisan Nasional heeded the voice of the people when it decided that the emergency ordinance and Internal Security Act should be abolished
Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad – the move to abolish the ISA would place Malaysia “on the moral high ground”
Former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – The Government’s move to abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA) is in accordance with efforts to uphold basic human rights
After hearing words like “basic human rights”, “moral high grounds”, “heeded the voice of the people” from the very people who failed to uphold it when it was badly needed – don’t you feel you want to puke?
I say this because these are very people (namely Mahathir and Badawi) who were in a position to do something on ISA in the past and yet did nothing but when Najib announced it, they jump into wagon band applauding it. And despite that, it is apparent that on the other end – assuming the PM is serious with his plans for ISA, it is not going to be a smooth road ahead:-
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz – we can’t just abolish the acts overnight without considering national security,
Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein – Those currently detained under the Internal Security Act would remain in custody until the new laws are passed
A reader at The People’s Parliament – It’s a gimmick. Just like when the Anti-corruption Agency was replaced by the MACC, it was promised that the MACC would be like the Hong Kong Anti-corruption Agency where corruption would have zero-tolerance
Former PM, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – Datuk Seri Najib Razak should expect hardliners in Barisan Nasional (BN) to resist his plans to repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA) and other security laws because they want to maintain the old ways to silence critics.
There is no doubt that many especially the Oppositions are taking the stand of waiting and see whether the abolishment of ISA will actually take. At this point, there are many uncertainties.
What is the form of the new laws that is going to replace ISA? Will it end up as another “new wine in an old bottle”? And the Home Minister has ruled out the immediate release of ISA detainees until the new law comes in force. That means these detainees will remain locked up in Kamunting with an uncertain future. And why the PM did not call for an emergency sitting of the Parliament for the abolishment of ISA and amendments of other restrictive laws to be tabled and approved?
Najib has been talking about transformation, high-income nation and of course, the role of 1Malaysia in his administration. No doubt there has some success in this but the implementation of it have somehow tainted by inter-party politics and anti-Opposition political driven motives, driven by people who put the politics ahead of the country.
The promise to abolish draconian laws like ISA is always welcomed. No doubt, the Government of the day has the right to take drastic actions to ensure peace and security for its citizens and in doing so, may do so in denial of individual basic rights. But it has to be done without any double standards.
Reasons used by the Government in the past to arrests citizens under ISA, unfortunately, have not been applied in the same manner & force on those closely linked to the Government and ruling political party. This is why there has been a greater call for the repeal of such laws. Laws that lately seemed to be frequently used to enforce the power position of the Government and silencing of those who are against the Government.
We are not sure the nature and the scope of the new laws that will replace ISA. We just hope it does not turn to be another case of ACA turned MACC gone bad (after Teong Beng Hock, it seems they still have problems at its end). And if Najib is indeed serious in making positive changes to promote the upholding of human rights and dispel the doubts that Government is indeed serious to do away with laws like ISA, he should not waste time getting repeal process in motion. And it should be done before the next general elections (the same goes for his promise on electoral reforms).
Najib has spoken but whether things spoken will translate to actual action, we need to wait and see. Najib is moving in the right direction and he needs to keep up the momentum to ensure his promise cascades down his administration and political circle, otherwise, it will end up as another election gimmick.
Peanuts, Not Sweeping Reforms