Oudated Internal Security Act

Outdated ISA must be repealed 

Internal Security Act 1960 suppresses and violates human rights and denies justice to the detained. This law has been successfully used against political opponents of government and remains a powerful tool to the police and minister of internal affairs. Under ISA minister of home affairs and police can detain any person without trial for 60 days and they can decide if they wish to detain for a further 2 years and even a further 2 years. Under Section 8 of the ISA the Minister has been conferred powers of preventive detention that is draconian in nature but nevertheless valid under the Malaysian Constitution. The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) has recently recommended that the ISA be repealed and replaced by new comprehensive legislation that, while taking a tough stand on threats to national security (including terrorism), does not violate basic human rights.

Preventive detention was first introduced by the British in 1948 to primarily to combat the armed insurgency of the communist during the Malayan Emergency days. Even though the emergency ended in 1960, the government introduced ISA in 1961 under Article 149 of the Malaysian Constitution to continue with preventive detention giving the minister of home affairs wide and far reaching power to maintain law and order. The Article 151 of the ISA allows detainee the opportunity within three months, to make representations against the order to an Advisory Board. Since the advisory board is not a court, the appeal by the detainee may not make any headway given the wide discretionary powers of the home minister.   

ISA was extensively used to detain 106 opposition leaders and social activist on the 27th October 1987. The law is selectively used on opponents of government whenever the present government is under threat of dethroning. ISA is rampantly used to suppress the opposition, activists and NGOs. It’s a dagger hanging over every opponent of the present government. The opposition, activists and NGOs have campaigned for the abolishing of ISA for the past 50 years but only after the political tsunami, the government has made attempts to amend the ISA. It’s too late to amend but instead should be repealed. Malaysia has enough laws to protect people against criminals, robbers, terrorist, thieves, arsonist and instigators of racial tension. And none of these people are charged under the ISA. It is used extensively to prevent opposition and to instill fear in the hearts of people and opposition politicians to comply and submit to the will and wish of ruling party.

In Malaysia where race and religion are conspicuous in the daily interactions the leaders and government institutions have to be tolerant, accept diversity as a way of life and not suppress issues with repressive laws. Malaysians are matured and capable of discussing sensitive issues of race and religion if only government don’t over react and be biased in dealing with so called sensitive issues. Matters of national concern must not be suppressed with the use of ISA but instead be moderated and steered to move forward and built a more cohesive Malaysian society.

Senator S.Ramakrishnan


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