Sunday Star (Used by permission)
HERE we go again, making headlines around the world for the wrong reasons.
The latest arrests under the Internal Security Act have only brought more ignominy to the nation at a time of mounting political and economic uncertainties.
Global media coverage of the ISA detentions of Raja Petra Kamarudin, Seputeh MP
Teresa Kok and Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng – albeit for only
24 hours in her case – have further tarred Malaysia’s image abroad.
The Government has continued to justify the use of the ISA against those deemed to be a threat to security and public order but whether it likes it or not, unchecked powers to detain people for long periods without trial can only be looked at negatively in a country that wants to be seen as progressive.
Most legal systems in the world are not perfect and each has its own flaws. Even the US and Australia, where human rights are much cherished values, have their own versions of detention–without–trial laws in the form of the Patriot Act and the Australian Anti–Terrorism Act.
But these equally unjust pieces of legislation which could also be abused by their governments don’t make the continued existence of the ISA right.
The Government has every right to defend the population from those who are genuine threats to public order and security, including those who stoke racial and religious tensions. The point is: there are existing laws to deal which such miscreants.
The ISA is a capacious net that allows police to arrest individuals who they believe have acted, or are “about to” or “likely to” act in a way that would threaten Malaysian security, “essential services” or “economic life” (Article 73 (1)b).
On that basis alone, the ISA is antipodean to the fundamental principles of human rights. It denies the right to liberty of the person, to freedom from arbitrary arrest, the presumption of innocence, and the right to fair and open trial in courts of law.
It cannot be denied that the ISA has been abused in the past. Some victims may still be languishing behind bars at the infamous Kamunting Detention Centre.
Today, it’s not just the Opposition parties, human rights activists and those in the legal fraternity that are vehemently against the ISA.
Malaysians of all races and political affiliations feel the ISA is a shameful blot on the country’s dignity.