Saturday, July 31, 2010

ISA ‘beyond repair’ Malaysian infamy

ISA ‘beyond repair’, say groups


Saturday, 31 July 2010 Combat

“It has done the country a lot of bad because of the reputation it has given us. (Malaysia) is not a respecter of human rights and that puts us in the lead of a very backward country,” he said, calling the ISA a black mark for the country.

“It puts people in fear of speaking out even if they are speaking out for justice. It represses the people and the creativity of Malaysians and not to mention, it has also put more than 10,000 people under detention,” he said.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — Human rights groups and lawyers have continued to rubbish Putrajaya’s efforts to amend the Internal Security Act (ISA), reiterating that the five-decade-old security law was “beyond repair” and should be abolished entirely.

The Home Ministry announced recently that the Cabinet was currently studying amendments to six preventive laws including the ISA which, among others, will see changes to the powers of the home minister, the duration of the detention period and rights of detainees under confinement.

The ministry, however, stressed that the ISA would not be abolished, despite rising opposition, and would merely be tweaked to protect detainees. The amendments are expected to be tabled in the next parliamentary sitting.

Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) chairman Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh told The Malaysian Insider that it made little sense to merely amend an Act that, by allowing detention without trial, not only strips away basic human rights, but also silences any dissenting voices in the community.

“The essential problem with ISA is that it cultivates a culture of fear. At any point in time, if the government or politicians feel a person is a threat to national security, they can just arrest him or her.

“No one is allowed to exercise their duty and criticise the government because the minute he does that, he can be threatened by the ISA,” he said.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) director Dr Kua Kia Soong echoed Syed Ibrahim’s sentiments.

“It has done the country a lot of bad because of the reputation it has given us. (Malaysia) is not a respecter of human rights and that puts us in the lead of a very backward country,” he said, calling the ISA a black mark for the country.

“It puts people in fear of speaking out even if they are speaking out for justice. It represses the people and the creativity of Malaysians and not to mention, it has also put more than 10,000 people under detention,” he said.

Kua, formerly a detainee himself during Operasi Lalang in 1987, claimed that the oppressive Act had changed the tone and the spirit of even the most outspoken communities.

“I know the NGOs before Operation Lalang... they were not as fearful as they were after it. The NGO communities tended to be the more outspoken community (back then), so imagine the effect it had on university students and politicians... it has definitely frightened people,” Kua said.

Bar Council constitutional law committee chairman Edmund Bon claimed that most of the lawyers in country agreed that such an Act should be repealed.

“We have about 13,000 lawyers and I think a large majority of us agree that any Act that denies (the right pf people to defend themselves in court) should be repealed.

“It should be repealed wholesale and not amended because there is no need for the ISA,” he said, adding that there were other preventive laws that could be used to punish offenders.

“There are various other laws that people can be charged under. If the government wants an extended period for investigations of certain complicated crimes, (the detention period) should be up to 28 days from 14 days, no more,” he said, adding that by then the detainee should either be released or be charged in court.

Kua pointed out the irony that out of the 10,000-plus people detained under the ISA thus far, none was charged with any crime, let alone for terrorism.

“That shows the ISA is a sham.

“I have always argued against amendment. Repeal it, for the simple reason the first atrocities committed are usually during the first week of solitary confinement,” Kua said. He cited numerous reports on abuse and torture of detainees during the solitary confinement period.

He said the provision in the ISA allowing for 60 days of solitary confinement was the longest in the world.

According to Syed Ibrahim, the longest anyone had been detained was for 22 years and that person was detained when Singapore was still a part of Malaysia.

He said that although in terms of numbers, the ISA’s current number of detainees is way smaller than those detained under the Emergency Ordinance (EO) Act 1969 and the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) 1985, which totals about 1,000 detainees, the ISA was still the “mother of cruel laws”.

Kua concurred, saying that once the ISA is repealed, it would clear the path for the abolishment of the EO and DDA.



No comments: