Putrajaya’s sacrifice laughable

The prime minister can’t be serious when he said his decision to repeal the ISA was Putrajaya’s sacrifice for the people.

Jeswan Kaur (FMT)

There is a limit to everything and for the sake of its survival, the ruling Barisan Nasional government has to get its act in order.

To underestimate the intelligence of the rakyat will continue to prove detrimental to the federal government, a lesson which its leader and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak keeps failing to learn.

On April 12, the premier made a remark which, to the people, is all about the desperation plaguing Najib in wanting to win big in the coming 13th general election.

First, he said that the move to repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA) was Putrajaya’s sacrifice for the people and that the decision to abolish the heavily criticised law which allowed for detention without trial was not easy but was done to meet voters’ expectations for greater political reforms.

Then he contradicted himself by saying that the need to do away with the ISA was reasonable and sees no reason why its annulment should pose any obstacle for the police to do their job.

Since when has Putrajaya been “sacrificing” for the people? On the contrary, it is the rakyat which have been making sacrifices by putting their trust in the BN leadership, often giving it the benefit of the doubt.

How dare that as a leader of the nation, Najib conveniently forgets the abuse detainees of ISA suffered. Was torturing them emotionally and mentally a “package” deal or were the police given a free rein to bully the ISA detainees as and how they liked?

It was Putrajaya that saw to it that the ISA did all it could to “teach” detainees a lesson. With little hope for a trial, the detainees were at the mercy of the “powers-that-be”. It is such an oxymoron for Najib to portray the Putrajaya-based federal administration as having “sacrificed” for the rakyat.

Equally disturbing is Najib saying that his cousin, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, now shoulders a burden most difficult for the latter no longer has the power to conduct pre-emptive detention.

Najib suggested this was a dilemma for Hishammuddin, who would struggle to live with his own conscience should he fail to safeguard national security with the absence of the ISA.

For the benefit of Najib and Hishammuddin, there are “decent” and “conscientious” ways of protecting our country; abusing the ISA and the detainees was surely not one of them.

“It wasn’t easy for the government to repeal the ISA… especially for the home minister but he did it nevertheless because that is what the rakyat want,” is what Najib had said at the launch of Bukit Aman’s new tower on April 12.

The new law to replace the ISA, called the Security Offences (Special Measure) Bill 2012, was finally tabled for first reading on April 10 after Najib announced months back that he would abolish the British-inherited law as part of his vow to improve civil liberties.

ISA a damaging tool

There is more than enough evidence that affirms the abusive nature of the ISA with the cops doing all they could to “destroy” the pysche of an ISA detainees.

Little wonder then why the former Inspector-General of police Rahim Noor was against the move to repeal the ISA, although his claim that the absence of the ISA could give rise to “communist” insurgency which he said was still active, was at best laughable.

But Rahim’s claim that these communist elements were taking shelter under “the human rights” wave was a clear give-away as to why the police continue to show no respect for civil liberties.

Where did Rahim, who had to leave the police force unceremoniously following an assault case on current Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim back in 1998, obtain information that the communist movement was alive and kicking and used the human rights front as their shield?

Or was this “recipe” made up to justify the need for the ISA, albeit the fact that its damage has been irreversible?

Contrary to Najib’s claim that the ISA repeal was in line with voters’ aspiration for greater political reforms, it is the BN government’s “desperation” to make a clean comeback in the 13th general election that forced the abrogation of the ISA.

And before the premier who is also head of the BN coalition gets all too comfortable thinking he has become the favourite of the rakyat with a 69% popularity rise after repealing the ISA, it would be in Najib’s best interest to accept the truth that it was his many “bribes” in the form of handouts that did the trick.

The ISA, a law that unfortunately became a tool to crush dissent, was among the opposition’s key campaign against the BN government.

The move to repeal it was regarded as part of Najib’s effort to mitigate the damage and hopefully regain support from the big number of fence-sitters.

But the new law replacing the ISA is said to give the police wider powers than they currently exercised.

Not only that, according to Lawyers for Liberty, the Securities Offences (Special Measures) Bill 2012 infringes the fundamental liberties guaranteed under the Federal Constitution. The NGO said the Bill infringes the basic rules of evidence, impeding a person’s right to a fair trial.

Human rights NGO Suaram has described the proposed new law as one that would “further limit fundamental rights and provide wider powers to the police force”.

Now, is this what Najib calls “Putrajaya’s sacrifice for the rakyat”?