Under the ISA, the government may hold anyone suspected of threatening national security or a number of other vague categories of proscribed activities without charge or trial. Most of the 112 people detained under the ISA are accused of associating with militant Islamist groups; though the government has expanded its use of the ISA to include individuals accused of counterfeiting and forging documents and has threatened to use it against practitioners of religious beliefs deemed "deviant" by the government's Religious Affairs Department.
Since September 11, 2001, and in view of the increasing use of the ISA against suspected Islamist militants, some ISA critics, notably the United States, are now silent on the use of the ISA. A cabinet minister told Human Rights Watch that the U.S. no longer criticizes Malaysia's use of the ISA because of U.S. detention practices at Guantnamo Bay.
US and UK forces in Iraq have detained thousands of people without charge or trial for long periods and there is growing evidence of Iraqi security forces torturing detainees.
So what wrong?
Similar action would also be taken against anti-national elements and those inciting racial and religious sentiments for negative purposes. So the Internal Security Act cannot be repealed as there are still negative forces at work which can destabilise peace and security in the country.
Although the communist threat had ended, there were still group which sought to use racial sentiments to sow disunity among the people. So, we need the ISA in order to uphold order and enable the process of development to continue.
Ones must remember that economic sabotage is one of the grounds for detention under the ISA.
Despite reservations by some quarters, the ISA was useful in dealing with trouble-makers out to create chaos in this multi-racial country. Malaysia was a model country with the various races living in harmony. In a multi-racial country, the Government needed to adopt a policy which could bridge the disparity in socio-economic standards among the various communities.
If one race is rich and another poor, a lot of misunderstandings will occur between them. So, the Government has adopted a policy to enable those left behind to catch up. But if after some time, they still cannot catch up, the restlessness will continue.
In Singapore, more than 1,000 gangsters and drug traffickers are being held indefinitely without charge. But, those held were impossible to prosecute and convict because witnesses were too frightened to testify against them. And, that why preventive detention was necessary in such cases because the criminal justice system, in which a verdict is reached on the basis of evidence presented, was thwarted.
Although there was a need to re-evaluate the whole issue of national security, I believe it was not practical to scrap the ISA altogether. I do not share the view that the original powers contained in the ISA should be retained. But any move to review the Act should not be done hastily.
We have to deal with very important issues, like racialism, which can be effectively quelled by invoking the ISA. But there should be no abuse because the credibility of the government will be at stake.
If there were no such laws to prevent people from sabotaging the security and peace the country is enjoying, foreign investors will not bring in as much money as they are doing now. The country's great economic success is also due to stringent laws which will deter people from abusing the basic human rights given to them.
I believe the Government did not simply detain people under the ISA for political or personal reasons.Those who were detained under the ISA were people who had attempted to threaten security and peace of the country. The Government detained certain people to prevent them from acting in a manner which could endanger the peace in the country.
And, the important thing is: ISA was also not contrary to the United Nation's Declaration on Human Rights or the Vienna Declaration.
Any constructive criticism and comment that would contribute to fair, frank and informed discussion on this posting to help achieve our national objective will be most appreciated. We need to have more open exchange of ideas on this sensitive but important subject in the context of the national vision and security.