Utusan wants ‘spirit of ISA’ retained in new anti-terror laws

By Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 20 — Utusan Malaysia today joined political hardliners in pressing to preserve the “spirit of the Internal Security Act (ISA)” in the country’s two new anti-terrorism laws as the push back began against Putrajaya’s plans to repeal security laws.

The Umno-owned daily reasoned that such preventive laws were now considered “universal practice”, citing terrorism activities across the globe like the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

The attacks, said senior news editor Zulkefli Hamzah in his column, had fuelled the international community’s fears towards terrorism and subversive threats and made such preventive laws a necessity in any part of the world.

“Surely, if the United States had to resort to enforcing laws allowing detention without trial, (Malaysia’s) new (anti-terrorism) laws to be enacted soon should also play the role of the ISA, which is to protect the peace and security of the country,” he wrote.

He pointed out that former US President George W. Bush, who once reportedly criticised the ISA, had to “eat his own words” after the 2001 terrorist attacks and was forced to enact the Patriot Act to prevent further acts of terrorism in the country.

“And after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the repeal of the ISA, in conjunction with Malaysia Day — 54 years after Merdeka — what would Bush’s reaction have been if he were still in power?” he asked.

Zulkefli then attributed Malaysia’s peace and prosperity to the 40-year existence of the ISA, saying that in comparison with other countries Malaysians were now mature enough and ready for the country to achieve developed nation status.

“Do not deny that the ISA played a role in what we enjoy today,” he said.

With the ISA, he added, Malaysia and her neighbours Singapore and Brunei, both of which had also inherited the law, could successfully thwart terrorism and violent extremism to maintain public order.

“Surely we all do not want parties to interfere with the country’s transformation process,” said Zulkefli.

It has been barely a week since Najib caused ripples in the political landscape when he announced plans to repeal the ISA and reforms to several security and press laws but already signs of resistance have begun to surface.

On Sunday, Datuk Ibrahim Ali, president of Malay rights group Perkasa, declared that his organisation would reject the two new anti-terrorism laws that would replace the ISA if they do not keep to the “preventive spirit” of the Act.