Sunday April 15, 2012
Time for the ISA and other old oppressive laws to go
The Star Says
THE repeal of the dreaded Internal Security Act has begun, with more liberal security provisions in the pipeline evolving in the following weeks and months.
Transcending 52 controversial years of the ISA and other outmoded restrictive laws has not come a day too soon. All thoughtful and concerned Malaysians are glad to see the backs of them.
Even if it is argued that laws like the ISA were needed at some previous time, that time is over. Nothing is more necessary than the abolition of a practice whose time is past.
A 21st century Malaysia has outgrown any need for arbitrary and indefinite detentions without trial as determined by unelected agencies.
When the Government of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said last year that it would repeal such laws, sceptics scoffed.
The cynicism was particularly thick among Opposition ranks.
Then, when the Government actually acted as it had pledged, politically motivated cynics went on to claim that the new laws would be as bad or worse.
They would say anything except give credit where it was due, if that credit belonged to their political rivals in Putrajaya.
The sincerity of these cynics can be put to a simple test: would they honestly opt for the return of the ISA and the Emergency Ordinances over the new security laws?
The fact that the authorities were in a bind when contemplating the change testifies to the new provisions representing welcome new changes.
As Najib has acknowledged, it was hard to give up the ISA.
Still, it had to be done in the interest of justice and public opinion.
It is tempting for the authorities everywhere to want to possess as much power with as little accountability as possible, however much that clashes with public interest.
But such undemocratic laws invariably allow and encourage abuse.
Justice needs to be done and seen to be done.
The argument that the ISA helps policing is flawed.
It actually encourages lazy policing and poor enforcement of the law.
Only when policing entails due process and the gathering of material evidence for prosecution, as it lawfully should, does it become a more professional and respected endeavour.
Good governance implies sound political leadership that knows when to abandon which laws.
With the ISA, it was simply time to let go.