Friday, 19 December 2008

Time to get rid of draconian ISA

Brave New World (The Star)
September 18, 2008

"The preamble of the Internal Security Act is crystal clear in that it (ISA) was intended to be used for violent threats to the country."


On June 21, 1960, in the Dewan Rakyat, then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak said: “The Government has no desire whatsoever to hinder healthy democratic opposition in any way. This is a democratic country and the Government intends to maintain it as such. It is the enemies of democracy who will be detained.”

He said this during the debate on the Internal Security Bill and it is reported in the Hansard.

The Bill of course went on to become our infamous Internal Security Act (ISA).

It is a tough law but it must be remembered that as broad as the powers given to the Government are; the preamble of the Act has this to say:

“[This is] An Act to provide for the internal security of the Federation, preventive detention, the prevention of subversion, the suppression of organised violence against persons and property in specified areas of the Federation and for matters incidental thereto”.

The late Hugh Hickling, the drafter of the ISA, had said in interviews shortly before his death, that the preamble is crystal clear and that the ISA was intended to be used for violent threats to the country.

The late former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr Ismail Hussein, when confronted with the draconian nature of the Act, admitted that it was so.

However, he also pointed out that the normal workings of a democracy, such as a free press, would keep the Government in check and be a disincentive for them to abuse their powers.

What we have here is a forgotten little piece of history.

The ISA was drafted to battle the violent communist insurgency, and, one presumes, other threats of the same ilk.

As stated by the father of the current Deputy Prime Minister, it was not meant to stifle democracy. And furthermore, it is the very mechanisms of democracy, such as a free press, that will keep the use of the ISA in check.

In this light, we can see that the powers provided by the ISA have been severely abused over the decades.

The latest example of course is the arrest of Raja Petra Kamarudin, Teresa Kok and Tan Hoon Cheng.

The reasons for the detention of the three have nothing to do at all with any sort of violent action or even proposed violent action on their part.

In the case of Tan, the justification for her 16-hour detention was so ludicrous and so obtuse, that it beggared belief.

The ISA was not meant to be used as a personal protection device. And pray tell how a 16-hour detention after which the individual was released back into the public sphere can be considered “protection”?

Raja Petra is currently being charged for criminal defamation and sedition.

He is facing the law in open court where he shall be accused and he shall have the opportunity to defend himself or he would have done if he was not locked up right now.

Why on earth is he being detained? Is he planning some sort of armed rebellion? There is no evidence at all to indicate even the slightest hint of that.

And Kok is being detained because some political opponents have decided to accuse her of offending Islam.

If these accusations are false, and there are indications that they are, then there is a term for this kind of behaviour – fitnah.

Fitnah is the most despicable crime committed only by the most despicable of creatures.

I am disgusted by the latest use of the ISA. It is undoubtedly going against the spirit and the intention of the ISA.

The arrest of Raja Petra, Kok and Tan also shows that the law is so open to abuse that we have no other choice but to get rid of it. There can be no room for amendments.

The ISA must go.

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