I disagree with the Bar Council's call to repeal the ISA because social order is more important than unlimited individual freedom. Instead of violating human rights, the ISA is the guardian of basic human rights. It is the last bulwark against social disintegration and ensures the safety of the people, a stable economy and adequate food supply.
In my opinion, the ISA should be retained and maintained in its present form. However, it should be used only sparingly and in exceptional cases. Although the ISA may appear to be unjust because it denies a person the right to defend himself, I feel that there are instances where it might be absolutely necessary to detain certain individuals under the act in order to preserve or maintain national security, racial and religious harmony and economic stability. These, to me, are more important than an individual's decency and dignity.
The need for the ISA was proven as it had ensured the nation's security. ISA would prevent irresponsible people from trying to fan racial sentiment to undermine unity. Human rights activists have bemoaned this situation for years. They point out that extant laws, such as the Sedition Act, can be used to deal with "national security" offences. They also say the ISA has been used to silence political dissent, and that it's incompatible with the rule of law.
Besides, I think I can say that in Malaysia, ISA detainees are well-treated and given a lot of privileges, unlike in many other countries. I am sure some of our Members of Parliament who have been detained under the ISA will vouch for this. As far as I know, none of them seems to have lost any of their dignity.
I don't think minds like ours can be changed with the repeal of mere laws. And that's all the ISA is, after all: a "mere" law and not an unalterable part of our brain chemistry, forever affecting the things we do.
The ISA has become a synecdoche for all we fear, and we can't seriously continue to blame the government for everything we fear. That would be so ... childish. It's also become a too-convenient scapegoat for timidity and mental mediocrity. Like, grow up.
There will always be bigots and demagogues out to create discord in this our fair land, but don't let them spoil things for the rest of us. We have shown we can restrain ourselves from running amok when we hear intelligently critical views.
I do not think that the ISA is as bad as what it is made out to be. It is only arbitrary detention, that is people disappearing without any trace or justification like what is happening in some Latin American and African countries, that cannot be condoned.
I am of the view that our country needs such preventive laws like the ISA so as to deal with certain individuals who would resort to any means to undermine the peace and security of this country.
Such people have no respect for the laws of the country and are sometimes skilful in the art of circumventing them to avoid prosecution. Therefore, the individual's freedom should take a back seat if national security is at stake.
It is not difficult to understand why the Bar Council made such a call. Imagine you are walking on the street and some policemen come up to you suddenly and arrest you and put you in jail without any trial.
This sounds totally unjust as it violates basic human rights. But wait! If that is the case, why does the ISA exist anyway? One must know the reason first before agreeing with the Bar Council's call. Not long ago, huge demonstrations were held by Indonesians in Jakarta and other cities. As a result, there was chaos in these cities.
Thus, any effort to revitalise the critical Indonesian economy was made more difficult. One may want to ask: what good has the freedom of inciting huge demonstrations done for Indonesia? The lesson we can learn here is that personal rights should not be allowed to threaten social order.
The authority responsible for the country's law and order in particular should be tough with those who want to destroy what Malaysians took decades to build. What is the ISA for if not to stop such people from being mischievous?
Confucius said, the longest journey begins with but one step. Fundamental principles of fair play should be respected.
Political leaders and their supporters should exercise restraint and not to take the law into their own hands or play up the sentiments of others to project their party image. The peace and harmony of the country should not be allowed to be undermined by certain people who constantly harp on issues that could cause communal ill-feelings, to gain political mileage.
That why! The Internal Security Act is there to ensure, not entirely obedience, but a discouragement of organised intellectual, political, religious or racial disobedience. (Whether the Act is "good" or not, is another matter).
Are these laws draconian? It is up to the people to judge. Although it is seldom the people who will finally decide whether the laws stay or go.
I agree if someone who spread lies about the Government and its policies should be punished under the existing laws of the country. We cannot compromise on issues that may affect the economic and political. We cannot take things for granted because economic disparity among racial groups could lead to racial strife.
It is a common sight in some countries to see racial riots and demonstrations or general strikes taking place almost every day. We do not want to see these things happen because they jeopardise the lives of normal people who are not involved. We still feel we need the power to prevent irresponsible action.
That why the Internal Security Act (ISA), which provides for detention without trial, is still necessary to guard against the possibility that irresponsible parties will take action detrimental to the nation's security.
The time is right for anyones to write without fear or favour. If we are still living in a culture of fear, as some people say we are, writers (journalist/bloggers) should take the lead in helping to gradually take us out of that cultureor to call for conditions to be made more amenable for freer creative expression.
At the moment, most of this is being done by Opposition politicians and, of late, some NGOs. The intimidation factor is still there, the restrictive laws, the tactics the police can use, but writers being intellectuals, being the enlightened, can reason out why we don't need to be treated like children.
I'm sure the authorities are not so unreasonable that they will not listen to the voice of the reasoned and the reasonable. In many other parts of the world, the routine human existence has been severely disrupted because law and order has broken down. The police also had to take heed of the negative perceptions such as the enforcement of the Internal Security Act (ISA) which was perceived by some as meant to preserve the security of the ruling elite rather than the well-being of the people.
Similarly, there is a perception that the police are not inclined towards acting firmly against white-collar criminals who are well-connected. Perceptions of this sort may have no basis in reality. But they exist and persist.
Please accept the fact. Although conditions are much better now (than during the threat of communism), we cannot deny the possibility of situations that can still put a strain on relations between the races.
Although the ISA allows detention without trial, no one is being detained under it because of their political or 'oppositionist' attitudes. Although the ISA may appear to be unjust because it denies a person the right to defend himself, I feel that there are instances where it might be absolutely necessary to detain certain individuals under the Act in order to preserve or maintain national security, racial and religious harmony and economic stability.
These, to me, are more important than an individual's decency and dignity.
The country's social, political and economic stability cannot be separated from factors of internal and external security. Remember! Economic sabotage is one of the grounds for detention under the ISA.
And ISA 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. We need the ISA in order to uphold order and enable the process of development to continue.
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 livingin 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.
The Act was one of the primary contributing factors in ensuring peace, prosperity and rapid economic growth. 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, and 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 ISA was merely to protect the country against people who wanted to jeopardise the security and peace of this country. The government should not hesitate to invoke the ISA on people who went abroad and condemned the country and the administration.
The opposition MPs always condemned the government although the programmes initiated by the government were for the good of the people of all races.
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.
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