Saturday, May 24, 2008

Repeal not review the ISA

ISA Evil and Obsolete

I refer to “Zaid : ISA being reviewed” (Star,May 23).

We welcome the announcement by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, that the Internal Security Act(ISA) is being reviewed. Although it falls far short of the people’s expectations to have it repealed, nevertheless it is an indication of the government’s compromising stand that is unprecedented with regards to the ISA. Hopefully it is a sign that the Abdullah administration is finally reacting to the call of the rakyat. Its willingness to review certain provisions of the ISA hopefully marks the beginning of the process leading to its ultimate abolition.

One of the laws that the people have opposed so aggressively over the last 20 years is the draconian ISA that empowers the government to detain anyone for up to 2 years without trial or justification whatsoever but mere suspicion of being a threat to national security. The vehement opposition not only comes from the Opposition parties,NGOs and various human rights groups from within and outside the country but most significantly of late from the rakyat themselves, regardless of their race, religion and political ideology. These groups have voiced their opposition in no uncertain ways including resorting to demonstrations and street protests but to no avail.

We have come a long way, fighting the colonialists, the communist insurgency and Japanese occupation. At that time, there was no way of identifying the enemy and we needed a law like the ISA to detain someone on mere suspicion of subversion, to protect the nation and the people. Today we do not have such enemies of the state anymore as we are all loyal citizens of an independent and sovereign nation with its own laws and code of ethics.

We have a legitimately elected government and an opposition, to represent the people in a duly established and respected parliament. We have an independent police force and judiciary to enforce and punish those guilty of subversion. We have sufficient laws to act against anyone who threatens the security of the nation, why do need to resort to arrest and punish someone without proving his guilt? Isn’t that a grievous breach of the basic human rights of an individual?

We are all aware that the ISA had been abused for political reasons by those in power. Not only politicians but professionals, members of Non-governmental Organisations(NGO),students, educationists and even religious and spiritual leaders have been detained under the ISA for questioning the injustices and abuses of the government and championing the rights of the people. Not only are they detained under deplorable living conditions but they are subjected to severe physical and mental torture like hard-core criminals.

Pak Lah has shown a great deal of tolerance to opposing views as shown by various groups being bold to voice out controversial views unlike before. It is unfortunate that this increased space for freedom granted is construed as a sign of weakness by his critics when in actual fact it reflects an increasing maturity of Malaysians.

We hope Pak Lah will take the extra step to demonstrate that tolerance and maturity not only review but ultimately abolish the much dreaded ISA. As a gesture to acknowledge his willingness to listen to the rakyat, Pak Lah should first release all ISA detainees and reassure the people that he will not resort to the draconian ISA in future.

This will go a long way to win the hearts of the people which he needs very badly at the moment. The people are his greatest strength and he can only tap onto that strength by heeding their calls which is very loud and clear – Abolish the ISA .

Dr.Chris Anthony

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