Is Mukhriz’s “For-ISA” Statement, a signal of Najib’s “reform ISA” policy reversal?

By Tony Pua

Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir had defended the Internal Security Act (ISA) and lamented that the public had failed to see the benefits from the controversial law that allows for preventive detention without trial yesterday.

Once again, the influential Barisan Nasional Deputy Minister took the decades’ long stance that “the law ensures that the country remained peaceful and harmonious.”  He had added that “Malaysians were actually fortunate because the nation’s political situation was better compared with many other countries.”

No one disputes the fact that the intent of the law when it was first enacted was to maintain peace and harmony at a time when we were facing communist insurgency.  Unfortunately, the threat has long disappeared and the ISA is now used for political suppression by putting away political activist deemed as a threat to Barisan Nasional's hold onto power.

Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak had in his inauguration speech promised that the draconian law will be reviewed, caving in to pressure from the civil society.  However, the will to reform appears to be now waning, and may have been written off the agenda altogether marking the first breach of promise by the new prime minister.

Firstly, at the end of April 2009, Datuk Seri Najib announced the formation of the Law Reform Committee under the chairmanship of a Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, the little known Datuk Liew Vui Keong.  Not only does it not bode well that the task has been designated to a mere deputy minister, in a committee that is supposed to look at everything, it appears that the ISA is not at all part of the agenda for the above committee.

Secondly, with the influential Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir who was picked as a minister ahead of UMNO Youth Chief, Khairy Jamaluddin who had defeated the former in the UMNO Youth elections, coming out to defend the ISA outright, it has served to confirm that the Barisan Nasional government has chosen to ignore the call of the rakyat for the ISA to be abolished.

The DAP will continue its call and pressure to abolish the ISA, and will directly support the submission of a memorandum by Gerakan Mansuh ISA (GMI) to the royal palace on the 1st August 2009, to ensure that the new Prime Minister will not renege on his promise to the people on ISA reforms.