Bersih 2.0 stands firm that national security laws should not be used as an excuse to restrict the rights of the Rakyat in exercising their freedom of expression, movement, and peaceful assembly.
This follows a comment by Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali on how the ISA would have prevented Malaysians of Chinese ethnicity from attending Bersih rallies.
“ISA is a draconian law permitting arbitrary detention in alleged cases involving national security. It is shocking that Ibrahim Ali feels that this law would apply to, or intimidate the people who gathered peacefully at Bersih’s rallies, especially when he had a taste of ISA under Operasi Lalang. In any vibrant democracy, there is no place for ISA and/or laws that allow for detention without trial. They must be abolished,” says Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah.
In 2012, Prime Minister Najib Razak abolished the act amidst a growing international movement calling for an end to the ISA, but replaced it with two new laws to prevent subversive elements and to fight organised terrorism and crime, in order to safeguard peace and public order: the Special Offences (Special Measures) Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Unsurprisingly, both these laws allow for arbitrary detention, while the latter and the Prevention of Crime Act allow detention without trial, above granting discretionary powers to the police.
Today, draconian national security laws, such as these three laws, and absolute powers to the prime minister under the National Security Council are arbitrary tools at the government’s disposal.
The ISA was purportedly enacted in 1960 to secure peace and order amidst the communist threat at the time. Despite such claims, the ISA was used as a political tool to silence activists and opposition members.
In November 2016, Maria Chin Abdullah became the first activist to be detained under the Special Offences (Special Measures) Act pending investigation under Section 124C of the Penal Code, which prohibits activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy.
Bersih 2.0 steering committee