A report in today's NST says that in legislative amendments expected to be tabled in the October parliamentary sittings, the detention period under the Internal Security Act ( ISA) may be shortened.
The Home Minister Dato Hishammuddin Hussein was reported to reiterate that the government had no intention of abolishing the act but would incorporate into it an effective system of checks and balances. He also said that the government aimed to remove the false perception that the ISA had been used as a political tool.
Hishammuddin's remarks have clearly shown two things. Firstly, the government is not prepared to accede to public demand that ISA be abolished. Secondly, he is not prepared to admit the fact that ISA has been used as a political tool.
The Internal Security Act 1960 was originally enacted to combat the remnants of communist insurgency but though the communists have laid down their arms many years ago , it has continued to exist in Malaysia.
When the legislation was proposed in Parliament, the then Prime Minister had assured legislators that ISA would not be abused. But in the 1960's ,ISA was already used against political activities and parties. Time has shown that again and again the government has broken its promises. Over the years, political dissidents, labour activists had been detained. History of ISA is a record of abuses by the then Allliance and the present BN government.
How could Hishammuddin claim that the people have false perception that ISA had been used as a political tool when the record of ISA abuses is so clear to all ?
Was he not aware that in 2008,Cabinet Minister Dato Shabery Chik had said that during Tun Dr Mahathir's leadership" many were detained under the ISA supposedly because they were a threat to national security when in actual fact they were a threat to his leadership"."
Was he also not aware that former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah had said on 18.7.2009 that the government had to be bold and consider abolishing the ISA?.
ISA which provides for detention without trial, and it goes against the fundamental human rights of a person. In a democracy, everyone has a right to an open trial. The government must not give any more excuse and must abolish the draconian ISA.
If Hishammuddin is not convinced that the majority of Malaysians want ISA repealed, then I challenge the government to carry out a national referendum and let the people decide whether ISA should be abolished.