ISA removed but sword of Damocles remains

— Kim Quek
The Malaysian Insider
Apr 12, 2012

APRIL 12 — Many Malaysians may be pleased with the removal of the much-condemned Internal Security Act (ISA), but the sword of Damocles that hangs over the heads of opponents of ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) stays intact.

This is due to the embedment of two key elements in the newly-introduced Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill that will in reality allow arbitrary detention for many years.

These elements are the broad and vague definition of offences that fall under this Bill, and the loophole that will allow prolong and lengthy detention through exploitation of the judicial process.

The definition of security offences

Among the broad range of vague offences included under this Bill, are the threat to public order or security, and disaffection against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

That the vague ground of “prejudicial to public order or security” has been consistently and widely abused in ISA detention in the past is evident from the fact that, except for a few genuine cases, all the more than 10,000 individuals so detained are political dissidents, whose only “guilt” is their opposition to BN.

Prominent among them are Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Mat Sabu, Lim Guan Eng, just to mention a few. Who in their right mind would imagine that these leaders of outstanding integrity and steadfast principles would have done anything that would undermine the security of the nation?

As for offences against the Agong, isn’t it still fresh in our mind that in the run up to the Bersih 2.0 rally last year, the authorities detained six members of Parti Sosialis Malaysia for “waging war against the Agong”? That this is a concocted charge is self-evident when not an iota of evidence has been produced to substantiate the accusation to date.

If BN has thought fit to freely abuse these grounds of detention in the past, when their political power had always been secure, why should we assume that they wouldn’t do it now when their very political survival is hanging on a thread due to the vibrant rise of Pakatan Rakyat and the widespread public disillusionment over BN’s endless mega misdeeds and ineptitude?

Prolong detention through judicial process.

Though the Bill provides for the right of the detainee to go for trial within the first 28 days of detention, he may, however, not see freedom for many years to come. This is due to the provision of Section 30(1) whereby even when the detainee is acquitted by the court, his detention may continue uninterrupted, as the prosecutor is entitled to orally apply for appeal and ask for the detention to continue until all legal processes are exhausted.

Experience in the past tells us that if it so pleases BN, this legal process can take many years.

One example is Anwar’s first sodomy trial, which started in 1999 and ended five years later in 2004, and even that duration was considered shortened thanks to former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s resignation in 2003.

This is evident from the fact that the sodomy trial took four years to travel from the High Court to the Court of Appeal, but only one year from there to the Federal Court where the conviction was overturned in 2004, after Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took over as premier in November 2003.

A more recent example is the murder trial of Altantuya Shaariibuu, with which Prime Minister Najib Razak is said to be entangled. The trial started in January 2007, but the appeal has not even heard in the Court of Appeal five years later, and looks set to be further delayed until after the next general election. Obviously, someone up there does not want it to be heard so soon for obvious reason.

There is not the slightest doubt that our judiciary, along with all other state institutions, are subject to illegitimate political manipulation.

With that in mind, how can we be not worried that any of BN’s opponents may be arbitrarily arrested under a pseudo crime in the Bill and kept in prison indefinitely while the legal process goes on endlessly?

No justification for new bill

The point is that the premise upon which the Bill is based as cited in the preamble — that the security of the country is under threat — is false, hence there is no justification to introduce this Bill, following the repeal of ISA.

To justify the Bill, BN has to satisfactorily explain precisely the threats that the nation has been facing.

It is common knowledge that we have not been threatened nor do we foresee threats from any foreign country — not even in the remote future.

Neither is there the slightest evidence of any internal plot from any quarter to overthrow the government by force or to inflict mass violence.

The only possible threat that may justify the introduction of preventive law is international terrorism, for which we must have a precise definition for “terrorism” — unlike the wide ranging and non-defined offences included in the Bill — so as to eliminate abuse of the law. For such guidance, we can look to the existing conventions of the United Nations, which is in tune with universally accepted values.

As for all other offences — even those arising from racial and religious friction — we have ample existing laws to deal effectively with them.

What we lack now is not good laws but good implementation with integrity.

In conclusion, this latest legislative initiative hyped by Najib as “heralding a golden democratic age in Malaysia” in his speech during the installation of the Agong on April 11, is but another gimmick to woo the middle ground ahead of the polls without actually reforming BN’s repressive power.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Thursday, 12 April 2012 - 7:53 pm

    ///ISA removed but sword of Damocles remains///

    So we are back to square one.

  2. #2 by GodIsWatching on Friday, 13 April 2012 - 4:05 am

    A greedy, corrupt government that is given to the dogs will never fail to scheme ways to imprison whoever crosses its path to uncover all their rotten misdeeds.

    Thus, this is the classic act of throwing the righteous into the lion’s den in substitute of what the corrupt leaders would otherwise have been: as deserving food fed to the lions and carcasses worthy to be consumed.

    Behold, God will deal justly and put the right people in their right place no doubt about this…

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