It was People Power that finished off the ISA

Aliran Executive Committee
Malaysia Day, 16 September 2011

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s announcement that the ISA and the Emergency Ordinance would be repealed has taken the nation by surprise.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.

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Sedition Act, the Police Act, the Universities and University Colleges Act and the Official Secrets Act must also be repealed as a sign of sincerity on the part of the BN.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 their merits 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.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Saturday, 17 September 2011 - 11:31 am

    Of cos, without d pressure fr civil societies n PR, where got NR so kiasu n kiasi till kare si 2 repeal ISA n EO, play play only mah
    So, now safe or no safe aah 2 wear Bersih Yellow T-shirt in 1M’sia?
    BTW, yesterday 16.9 was M’sia Day, also LKY’s 88th birthday, so he must hv had double joy in 1963, 1964 b4 d little red dot was mercifully kicked out of M’sia
    LKY also launching d Mandarin edition of his book ‘Hard Truth’; MMK got his own book which is Half Truth n more blardi lies, no shame 1 what

  2. #2 by monsterball on Saturday, 17 September 2011 - 11:39 am

    Now…Najib trying …”You can’t beat them ….join them”
    Announcing is one thing.
    Doing it fast and show some sincere actions…….another thing.
    None from Najib.
    His usual hot air and empty promises.

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Saturday, 17 September 2011 - 11:43 am

    Long live people power!

  4. #4 by drngsc on Saturday, 17 September 2011 - 11:57 am

    Hi all,
    let us not be too hard on Jib. He has spoken about it. Lets see ( give him a chance ) to carry it out. Mitigated, guarded support for what he said, would be reasonable, I think. However, let’s see what he gets done. The devil is in the details.
    People power or whatever, lets see the details.

    However, we should continue to work hard to change the tenant at Putrajaya.
    GE13 is our best chance, Failure is not an option. Let us all work very very hard. We must succeed.

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Saturday, 17 September 2011 - 12:44 pm

    Sure aah, no more blackening of pages of magazines, The Economist may wish 2 ask

  6. #6 by sheriff singh on Saturday, 17 September 2011 - 12:54 pm

    Do not speak too soon. The ISA is not yet finished – the deed is still not yet done.

    I think it is mutating or ‘transforming’ into something more viral.

  7. #7 by k1980 on Saturday, 17 September 2011 - 12:57 pm

    The repeal of the ISA and EO? Wanna bet with me, aliran?

    The ISA and EO will continue to haunt the rakyat, albeit under sweet-sounding names, such as “The Patriotic Act” and “The Homeland Ordnance”.

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 17 September 2011 - 12:59 pm

    The tagline “People Power finished off the ISA” is trifle san guine. We don’t know as a fact if ISA is really finished, for good! The PM has unleashed a barrage of acronyms to mark his policies: ETP, GTP, NKRA, MKRA, TAPS, STAR etc. He believes in their usefulness to etch on simple minds. So likewise he will think certain acronyms, like for eg ISA, are bad news and have to be rid off. It does not mean that the draconian powners of ISA cannot be vested in another legislation free from ISA’s negative branding. As Deng Xiaoping said, “I do not care if the cat is black or white, what matters is it catches mice”, spoken in 1961. Whilst it is true People Power has all long raged against draconian legislations, to say that it finished off ISA glosses over the contribution of an intervening factor that breaks the causation chain. That intervening factor could be intra-UMNO politics with the faction competing for power pushing him to do what he did.

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 17 September 2011 - 1:02 pm

    The common assumption amongst them is that BN will win. The rivals are however interested in a win without BN regaining 2/3 majority which is an excuse to ask him to show cause why he should be allowed to remain helming the party. That was the modus operandi in pressuring predecessor to vacate seat. The benchmark or “fitness” of office is not winning or losing election – winning is assumed- but retention or losing the 2/3 parliament seats! It’s a formula, in the absence of imagination, to be repeated. To try get 2/3 and take the wind out of the bag of rivals, the man has to resort to populist measures like repeal of ISA & other undemocratic legislations. In that sense the immediate cause of ISA being taken off is more the stepping up of pressure by his political rivals than mere accommodation of public demands for democratic reforms’ (people power so to speak) which he could well afford to ignore, were he not pressured to the corner.

  10. #10 by cemerlang on Saturday, 17 September 2011 - 3:18 pm

    got change may ? nothing lay ! the same only lay ! may be because you say change, that is why got change lah. lagi worse. today say something. tomorrow say another thing. say this to one person. say another to another person. whatever you say lah. you have your way of doing things lah. People power. Look for the evidence.

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