Not just ISA

By Zedeck Siew (The Nut Graph)

PETALING JAYA, 17 April 2009: Even though the focus has been on the Internal Security Act (ISA), civil society groups and a think tank say there are two other laws that also allow the state to detain someone without trial.

Suaram coordinator Nalini Elumalai said the two other laws were the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969, and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985.

"We call on the government to repeal these laws," Nalini said in a phone interview with The Nut Graph.

"We don't see why the Emergency Ordinances, for example, is still in place as Malaysia is no longer in a state of emergency," Nalini said, adding that these laws should not have been passed in the first place.

Ng (Pic courtesy of Ng Yeen Seen)
Sedar Institute deputy director-general Ng Yeen Seen agreed that all three laws that allow for detention without trial should be looked into. "But reviewing all three would take a long time," Ng said in a phone interview.

"Therefore, we recommend that the Home Ministry push for a parliamentary select committee to be appointed, to look into all such laws."

Ng said such a move would be a long-term effort. In the meantime, she said, the government should undertake a "total review" of the ISA.

Ng added that the Gerakan political think tank was against the use of the law for politically motivated detentions. Penang Gerakan chairperson Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan had previously said the party was "strongly against the ISA, especially when it involves detention without trial."

"The ISA should be replaced by an Anti-Terrorism Act," Ng suggested, saying that this would be more in line with the spirit of the ISA, which was implemented to protect Malaysians against terrorists.

The Nut Graph was unable to secure an interview with Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein for comment. However, on 14 April, Hishammuddin was quoted as saying the ministry would consult stakeholders and non-governmental organisations in reviewing the ISA.

He was responding to an earlier announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who pledged to review the ISA after releasing 13 ISA detainees on 5 April.

V Ganabatirau of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) being brought
out of the Kamunting detention centre on 5 April. He had been detained
under the ISA since 13 Dec 2007 (Pic by Raj Kumar, courtesy of theSun)

However, Hishammuddin had said the ministry would give priority to national interest and safety when reviewing the law. He also stressed that a review on the ISA should not contradict other statutes that allow for detention without trial.

Need for judicial review

Bar Council constitutional law committee chairperson Edmund Bon said "ouster clauses" in laws such as the ISA should be removed.

"The government must allow for actions carried out to be challenged on substantive grounds. They should be able to be reviewed by the courts.

"A minister must also justify his [or her] case publicly," Bon said.

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