“Don’t just look to our country only. See our neighbours or other countries. They too have laws more or less like ours or more stricter [sic].”
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, commenting on the need to retain the Internal Security Act (ISA), to “ensure economic and political stability”. He suggested that the Act be amended, or renamed, to be more appropriate to the times. (Source: ISA Can Be Amended, Not Abolished: Ahmad Zahid, Bernama, 1 Aug 2009)
Zahid failed to cite which nations the Malaysian government was currently emulating for its detention-without-trial legislation or how changing the law’s name would prevent the government from abusing human rights.
To date, the current administration, under Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has promised amendments to the Act but has steered away from removing the government’s powers to detain without trial. It also remains unclear when the Act will be amended.
Commenting on the Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) rally earlier the same day, Zahid said citizens need not be afraid of the ISA, if they had done nothing wrong.
“Any act that will replace the ISA should have the same objective, that is to safeguard the country’s security. At the moment it is not proper to abolish the ISA.”
Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, on his party’s stand on the Act. Khairy said that the ISA was still relevant as a pre-emptive measure against threats such as terrorism, and took the opportunity to convey his condolences to victims of the Jakarta bomb attacks that happened a day earlier. (Source: Umno Youth Wants ISA To Be Amended, Not Abolished, Bernama, 18 July 2009)
Khairy isn’t the only one who cites “security” as justification for the ISA. Commenting on the capture of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) leader Mas Selamat, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said that authorities had “sufficient information to arrest him under the ISA”. However, Hishammuddin was not forthcoming about what information the government had and merely asked for the public to believe him.
“We just want to show our support for the ISA. We will avoid any contact (with GMI). We are all Malays.”
Malaysian Silat Lincah Practitioners Association leader, Mahaguru Omar Din, when asked why his martial arts organisation was set to participate in a pro-ISA rally, planned for 1 Aug 2009. The rally, organised by Majlis Permuafakatan Ummah (Pewaris), called to its fold Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa Malaysia (Perkasa), Coalition of Young Malay Graduates (GGMM), and a number of silat clubs. (Source: Anti-ISA rally: Opposing groups on collision course?, Malaysiakini, 24 July 2009)
Increasingly, the defence of the ISA is becoming intertwined with the idea of Malay identity, power and supremacy. Will a protest against the Act then be seen as an attack on Malay Malaysians?