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Citizens take charge

Corrected on 18 Sept 2009 at 5pm

The Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia core group

KUALA LUMPUR, 17 Sept 2009: A group of citizens will be researching anti-terrorism laws in other countries to find ways to repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA) in Malaysia.

The Anti-ISA Project, which was launched yesterday on Malaysia Day as part of the Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) initiative, wants the law, which allows for indefinite detention without trial, repealed.

“We have been looking at laws from other countries to see how they deal with terrorist threats and to see whether we can come up with something that makes sense [as a replacement for the ISA],” Kelly Khoo, a member of the project, said last night at the launch.

Khoo said the group was working to propose viable anti-terrorism laws that would allow for preventive detention of genuine terror suspects, and that also ensured suspects were tried within a short period of time.

“If you look at the [ISA] preamble, it is not in line with [the situation] today — it is outmoded and can’t fit with today’s reality,” Khoo, a 23-year-old law graduate, said.

The ISA preamble states that the Act was meant to suppress organised violence by a substantial body of persons inside and outside Malaysia. RH Hickling, who crafted the ISA, had said in an interview with the New Straits Times before he died that he drafted the Act to protect citizens against organised violence from communist insurgents.

Grassroots democracy

The Anti-ISA project is just one of three projects under the SABM initiative. The other two are a roadshow to promote the ABM Declaration and encourage participation in the initiative, and a voter registration and education project.

The initiative was born out of a common desire for citizens to play a part in the nation’s governance, and hopes to create a mechanism for citizens to take charge.

“I think that it’s important to care about the country,” says Khoo. (Corrected) “When you feel you know the difference between right and wrong, then you know that the way the country is being run is wrong i.e. we do not have rule of law, or separation of powers. And ideas of democracy are lost when there is constant intimidation and suppression towards citizens and the press. So, if I plan to have a future in this country, shouldn’t I try to do something?

“We shouldn’t expect other people to fix things for us; we should get involved,” she told The Nut Graph during the launch.

“The rakyat should be able to tell the political parties what the rakyat want,” said lawyer Haris Ibrahim, who is an SABM core group member. He added during the launch that this was preferable to the top-down approach that has been applied all this while.

He said once their projects and programmes were finalised, SABM aimed to dialogue with the political parties from both the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat to invite them to consider the citizens’ proposals.

Good news

The good news is that citizens don’t need to have specialised knowledge to participate in the process.

Khoo, for example, just completed her Certificate in Legal Practice, and her other team mates in the Anti-ISA Project are an engineer and someone in finance.

Slogan on a t-shirt
Additionally, the 13 SABM core group members consist of, among others, two biology graduates, an ex-teacher, a financial planner, a timber businessperson, and a health and beauty shop owner. Their ages range from 26 to 61.

Jayanath Appadurai, a  core group member, said the group, which uses the slogan One People, One Nation, also wanted an end to race-based politics and delineation.

“We want to engage the hearts and minds of our people to rise above the social constructs of ethnicity, faith, colour, gender and class. We hope to plant the seeds to empower our people to think and act, first and foremost, as Malaysians.”

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3 Responses to “Citizens take charge”

  1. Arumugam says:

    This is the beginning of thoughtful citizens gathering support for a meaningful future of one nation and one people. Though this is long overdue, nevertheless something has begun. In [the] thorny, rocky path [toward] the achievement of the set objective, I am greatful to you and would support the movement. Let the nation [roll] forward beyond racial, religious and political borders for a truly meaningful and prosperous nation.

  2. Kelly Khoo says:

    Hi Jo Ann,

    Thank you for thinking my opinion worthy of quoting, but I thought I should clarify that I do not know how a country should be run! However, good write-up.

  3. Thank you, The Nut Graph for the heads up on the SABM launch.

    However, Kelly Khoo requested for a minor correction i.e. she does NOT know how a country should be run.

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