Parliament, not government must decide on ISA - Animah.

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From left, Syed Ibrahim, Nalini of SUARAM, me and Kak Animah Ferer.
Me and Kak Animah Ferer of PKR.

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Agreement reached on ISA amendments: Hisham.Home Minister Datuk Hishamuddin Hussein’s recent statements regarding the ISA show very clearly the ruling party’s utter contempt for Parliament. The ISA was enacted by Parliament, and any decision regarding it should be debated and decided by Parliament.

What we have here is another bare-faced attempt to ram a controversial issue through Parliament. It is not the government’s right to decide that the ISA should be amended rather than abolished, but the Home Minister is trying to give the impression that amending is the only alternative, and therefore the government will only entertain views on how it should be amended.Even then, it has limited the scope of discussion to five elements or aspects. Hishamuddin is also misleading us by claiming that the government has consulted a number of NGOs on the matter. This would have been commendable if all interested NGOs had been invited (and their views taken seriously). As it is, major interested parties, such as GMI (a coalition of more than 80 NGOs which all want the ISA abolished) was excluded from the consultation. The fact that the government gained agreement of the NGOs so quickly indicates that only the pliant ones were invited, and their role was simply to give apparent legitimacy to the government’s stand.The ISA was formulated in 1960 to address a specific and concrete threat to national security, that of the Communist insurgency. Since then, not only has that threat long disappeared from the horizon, but the ISA itself has been amended so many times, making it more and more draconian and devoid of checks and balances, that it should have no place on the statute books of any decent nation. It was passed by Parliament, and only Parliament has the right to decide on any change in its status. If, therefore, in view of the rise of more intense terrorist activity in the world in recent times, Malaysians feel there is a need for an emergency law, the entire issue should first of all be exhaustively debated in Parliament, and opinions from any interested individuals or groups should be given a full hearing. If Parliament then agrees there should be such a law, a draft should be prepared by a team of independent and experienced judges/retired judges and law experts, and their proposal again fully debated by Parliament and the general public. We must ensure that any law enacted in this country is consistent with contemporary principles and norms of justice and human rights – which have evolved substantially since 1960.It is widely known that the ruling party has frequently abused the ISA for the purpose of perpetuating its own power, and there are grounds for suspicion that this current move is an attempt to ensure that it will be kept as intact as possible, so that this indispensable tool of repression will remain available.We Malaysians must speak up loud and clear to frustrate this shameful bullying and insist that Parliament is not prevented from doing its job.

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