It was People Power that finished off the ISA

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Prime Minister Najib Razak’s announcement that the ISA and the Emergency Ordinance would be repealed has taken the nation by surprise. He also announced that Section 27 of the Police Act (on public assemblies) and the requirement for publishing permits to be renewed annually would be dropped.

A great victory for People Power: The ISA will soon be history! - Photo courtesy of reformisjalanan.blogspot.com

Most people would be inclined to welcome these announcements. But we would be well advised to temper any celebration with caution. What will replace these oppressive laws is not clear and has not yet been revealed in much detail.

The repeal of the ISA and EO is an acknowledgement that the government can no longer sustain the use of these laws without strong public condemnation and opposition. The repeal of these two laws is the only logical move.

Massive public rallies have driven the final nail into the coffin of these obnoxious laws. The people, inspired and spurred on by the civil society Abolish ISA Movement (GMI), have won a remarkable victory through their persistent and determined opposition to the ISA. For that, the people have to be congratulated.

The repeal of the ISA and EO, however, will not erase the suffering of all the detainees down the ages who have unjustly suffered at the hands of an oppressive state apparatus. Countless lives have been ruined. An independent tribunal is needed to look into all cases of ill-treatment and torture, psychological or otherwise, that have surfaced over the years. Those who have been abused and ill-treated and incarcerated without trial for years – or their families – must be adequately compensated. Those responsible for ill-treating or abusing detainees must be brought to book as a lesson for others who may be tempted to continue in similar ways.

Meanwhile, other laws that restrict human rights such as the Sedition Act, the Police Act, the Universities and University Colleges Act and the Official Secrets Act must also be repealed as a sign of sincerity on the part of the BN. The same goes for other preventive detention laws.

As for publishing permits, do democratic countries really require permits for publishing newspapers and other periodicals? If the Minister revokes a “permit”, can it now be challenged in court? In the spirit of democracy and freedom of expression, the government should also make a commitment towards creating a Freedom of Information Act. If not, there is nothing to celebrate.

To demonstrate its commitment to international human rights norms, the Malaysian government must now ratify all UN human rights treaties such as the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Refugee Rights Convention. This will convince Malaysians that the BN is serious about respecting human rights.

It is also important to put in place a truly independent judiciary so that the courts will not be used to persecute political opponents. To restore the independence of the judiciary, appointments of judges must be made based on merit and not on political considerations as perceived by a vast majority of Malaysians.

For now, in the spirit of these announcements and to mark Malaysia Day, Aliran calls on the Malaysian government to drop all charges against the PSM 30 and others arrested before and during the Bersih rally. This would be a welcome gesture on this auspicious day.

Aliran Executive Committee
Malaysia Day, 16 September 2011

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5 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a gimmick. Just like when the Anti-corruption Agency was replaced by the MACC, it was promised that the MACC would be like the Hong Kong Anti-corruption Agency where corruption would have zero-tolerance. But what we got was the reality of UMNO’s deceit. The MACC was (allegedly) used to topple the Perak state government, and nearly the Selangor state government. Witnesses that entered the front door of the MACC went flying out of the window. The MACC was never meant to fight corruption but was used to protect the corruptors of the first magnitude in the UMNO government. Even the Opposition was fooled by this obnoxious Greeks gift of the UMNO government.

    The ISA was made into law by the UMNO government in 1960, even though it was introduced administratively by the British to specifically fight the Communist menace. The British never wrote the ISA into the Constitution. This duplicity was done by the UMNO government, not to fight the Communists, but to incarcerate its political opponents and to strike fear among the population. The real Communist treat was long over when Malaysia befriended Communist China. The fact that Najib announced the abolition of the ISA during Malaysia Day is no comfort. No persons still under detention were released to date, and that the ISA would be replaced by two MACC’s “bait-and-switch” type of laws, i.e. to strike its opponents by underhanded methods in order to remain in power. The ISA had been the bedrock of UMNO’s political hegemony and only political novitiates would fail to understand this. Just as UMNO would never abandon the NEP, it would never give up its ISA’s lifeblood to political longevity. To fool the unconvinced Najib is now resorting to the “bait-and-switch” stratagem.

    Caveat emptor: Trust the snake oil salesman at your own peril.

  2. (Najib): ho-hum! Thats the little crumb thrown to appease the little people out there. Good idea from my consultants (I really hope they are right, though). Anyway, whats next? Oh ya, my dearest Rosmah’s shopping list..

  3. The reason for all this is that the deceitful and corrupted Umnoputras know their days to continue running this country is over. And they don’t want the in coming government to enjoy the ‘privileges’ that go with the oppression.
    Just remember there are many other oppressive laws still around they can play with. These deceitful umnoputras will come up with something new once they are back in government.
    To make sure these oppressive laws will go for good just remember to come out and vote in the coming GE and kick the deceitful and corrupted Umnoputras out of their gravy trains and ivory towers once and for all times.
    The only guaranteed way out of all these is never to trust these deceitful and corrupted Umnoputras ever again.
    Too little too late and enough is enough !

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