Face-off on ISA street


Syed Ibrahim: We oppose the act because it is against the process of justice, it violates human rights and is open to abuse by allowing the authorities to be the judge, jury and executioner.

The ISA denies a suspect a fair trial, legal counsel and allows a person to be remanded, initially up to 60 days (under Section 73 of the Act), a further two years and longer if necessary. The detainee is open to mental and physical torture.

Khairul Azam: We support the ISA but it must be used in a professional manner. And by supporting the act, it does not mean that we support the government of the day.

Our consensus is based on the rules, regulations and laws of the country where the Federal Constitution reigns su-preme. The ISA is perfectly enacted under Article 149 of the Federal Constitution, which was formulated as a social contract among the main political parties.

The main pillars which we support are: that Islam is the religion of the Federation; that the king is the supreme head of the Federation; to safeguard the Malay ruler's sovereignty; provisions for the special court; that no legal proceedings otherwise can be instituted against the Malay rulers without the consent of the attorney-general; that the national language is Bahasa Malaysia; and the reservation of quotas, including services and permits, for the Bumiputeras.


Syed Ibrahim: Yes. Our coalition comprised non-governmental organisations, students, members of political parties, human rights activists, women's organisations and ethnic groups.

We expected more than 100,000, but some 70,000 eventually turned up in various parts of the city.

In fact, hundreds were hauled up by the police even before the march (to Istana Negara) began (from various locations).

Khairul Azam: We were there (on Saturday) from 9am. An hour later, when some of us attempted to gather at Central Market, we were hauled up by the police and told to disperse for wearing pro-ISA T-shirts.

We did not carry any banners, wear headbands or badges. I then bought a "Visit Malaysia" T-shirt and wore it over my pro-ISA T-shirt. After that, there were no problems with the police. We did not provoke the police but respected them instead.

Shortly later, I convened a press conference in the same area.


Syed Ibrahim: No. There was solidarity among us despite the heavy-handedness of the authorities.

Khairul Azam: Yes. As law-abiding citizens, we abided. I, too, followed the police's advice. I am a former lawyer and I do not represent any political party.

My application to join Pas' Sungai Ramal branch in Kajang was made in January but until now there is no response from them.


Syed Ibrahim: We wanted to express solidarity. We did it in accordance with provisions in the Federal Constitution.

Article 10(1)(b) gives us the right to a peaceful assembly; only that it has (dubious and restrictive) clauses like the one that requires a police permit. We did give notice to the police, the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) and Home Ministry. We were transparent and had no ulterior motives.

All the authorities had to do was allow us reasonable time to peacefully march and hand over our memorandum to the palace.

Khairul Azam: We took heed of the authorities' advice. We gathered but did not go on with the rally. We realised that peaceful assemblies cannot be held without approval from the authorities.

Let's not refer to international human rights conventions. Let's just look at the laws of our country — the Rukun Negara as a guide.

Even Article 10 of the Federal Constitution clearly states that the freedom of speech and expression, peaceful assembly without arms and the right for citizens to form associations, can be exercised subject to clauses (2), (3) and (4) that touch on morality, public order and national security.


Syed Ibrahim: Not at all. If laws like the ISA are used to detain those detrimental to national security, terrorists like (Jemaah Islamiyah Singapore leader) Mas Selamat Kastari and (Jemaah Islamiyah splinter group leader and master bomb maker) Noordin Mat Top, we are all for it.

But the authorities cannot use the ISA against peaceful protesters. Then again, there are provisions and applications in the law when detaining terrorists. You cannot simply treat them like animals.

In fact, the ISA can make way for the preventive "Anti-Terrorism Law" drafted in 2003. Why has it not been tabled in Parliament?

Khairul Azam: That's why we need laws like the ISA. If left unchecked, it can lead to terrorism.


Syed Ibrahim: We have no political agenda. We are not asking for absolute rights or something "out of the moon", just a check and balance along the principles of justice and basic human rights for all.

The rally was one way to get the message across to authorities and the government, especially with numerous cases of human rights violation of late — the most recent being the one involving Malek Hus-sin, who was awarded RM2.5 million in damages following his unlawful arrest and detention under the ISA.

Khairul Azam: We urge the rakyat to rethink their actions. Know the law for your own safety. Don't just listen to politicians. Why take part in the rally in the first place? What benefits are there?

Politicians are cunning. They have their agenda to pursue at the expense of the people.

Lawyers act for their paymasters. It's business for them.


Syed Ibrahim: We have prepared a "people's memorandum" carrying the voice of the rakyat, which we hope would receive the king's attention. Thus far, we have been prevented from presenting the memorandum to the king.

Khairul Azam: Yes, we did. I personally left a copy at the palace gates and sent a registered mail to the palace.


Syed Ibrahim: We hope the pro-ISA coalition understands our struggles. Let's respect each other's rights.

We do not want to compromise national security but don't abuse the ISA in favour of someone else's agenda, for political mileage or to use it along racial lines. Even during war, captured enemies and prisoners of war are accorded human rights.

Our rallies have always been peaceful, non-provocative and non-violent. We have even advised our supporters not to retaliate against the police. We are open to talks or debate with anyone.

Khairul Azam: Be responsible citizens and obey the laws of the country.

If not, surrender your citizenship and go live elsewhere. Or wait till you form the new government; you can then amend the laws in your favour.


Syed Ibrahim: Our coalition represents 83 organisations comprising several million supporters.

Khairul Azam: We have 356 NGOs with more than 100,000 supporters. The numbers are increasing each day.

There are no membership fees. They just want to support the rule of law.


Syed Ibrahim: Yes, we can. We had duly consulted and advised all concerned of the consequences.

We also had consultations with Suhakam and the Bar Council, which agreed to act as observers. The Bar Council assured us legal aid.

As for the presence of juveniles, the parents exercised their right to be in a public area and be part of a peaceful rally. There were no arms or acts of violence. We are disappointed that no proper welfare was accorded to the detained juveniles while in lock-up.

All costs, including bails and legal fees, are borne by our coalition.

Khairul Azam: We are not involved.