Friday, October 10, 2008

Pak Lah, release all ISA detainees

Pak Lah must repeal the ISA before quiting

The decision by Datuk Sri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down as Prime Minister by March next year, though surprising was not unexpected. Many may feel let down by his premature exit from the political arena especially when there country is plagued with numerous problems.

They would have preferred him to defend his post and remain as PM for a short while more and pursue his promised reforms more aggressively. Similarly there are those who are pleased that he finally agreed to let some others to take over and manage the affairs of the nation which was incapable.

Nevertheless it was magnanimous of him to give in to the calls of the people to relinquish his post and make way for someone new to succeed him especially when the country is facing great political and economic uncertainties. Whoever succeeds him will have to possess not only all the skills of political manoeuvring but above all the integrity, courage and whole-hearted commitment to bring bold changes for the benefit of the people and nation not himself and his party. He must put the people and the nation above self interest and party.

Abdullah promised many changes when he took over the premiership in 2003.The peoples’ hopes for more freedom and accountability were ignited and this resulted in the massive mandate they gave him in the 2004 general elections, the highest in the history of the nation.

Despite his honesty and sincerity in wanting to bring changes and reforms for the benefit of the common man he met with limited success. The hardcore political realities prevented him from succeeding in realizing his dreams as he would have wanted. There was tremendous resistance from within his own party which he could not overcome and push through the promised reforms.

Abdullah has admitted his shortcomings and plans to complete his unaccomplished tasks during the remaining short period of six months. He plans to continue with his attempts to reform the judiciary by establishing a Judicial Appointments Commission and a Malaysian Anti-corruption Commission to strengthen and empower the anti-corruption body. He wants to set up a Special Complaints Commission to improve the effectiveness of enforcement agencies and organize a BN convention to tackle head-on sensitive inter-communal problems that are threatening to disrupt the peace and harmony in our multiracial country.

These may be honourable and praiseworthy aims on the part of the outgoing prime minister but time constraints may not allow him to complete these noble tasks before he leaves. There is widespread scepticism whether Abdullah can achieve all these in five months what he couldn’t in five years. Nevertheless he should boldly push through these reforms more aggressively in the remaining time he is in office and impress on his successor to continue with them fearlessly.

While these reforms may meet tremendous resistance in their implementation and have limited chance for success, one thing that he can definitely succeed in the short time he has is abolishing the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA). This cruel law is being detested by all sections of the rakyat, including politicians and ministers from the BN itself, which is unprecedented.

In a civilized and democratic system there is absolutely no justification for the need for such an undemocratic law like the ISA that allows detention and torture without trial. Repealing the law is not an option but a must as the vast majority of the people oppose it. The ISA has been frequently abused to silence the voices of the people for the political interest of a handful of leaders. There is no way of stopping the abuse of the ISA by those in power as long as it exists and by repealing the Act, Pak Lah will be doing a great service not just to the present but also to the generations to come.

Pak Lah still has the time to demonstrate that he listens to the people, whom he claims to love so much. What the people want now is the immediate release of all ISA detainees and the abolishing of the act altogether. If he can do that he will at least go done in history as the prime minister who dared to do what others feared – restore greater democracy to the nation and freed the people from the clutches of a repressive law.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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