Release of the ISA Detainees: – Morally Correct, Technically Flawed
Posted by Oscar the Grouch on April 5, 2009
The release of the 13 ISA detainees – portentously announced by newly elected Prime Minister Najib Razak – is a welcome decision. This, together with the governmental pledge for a comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act 1960, would hopefully mark the style-to-come for Najib’s new administration.
However, although the decision is generally saluted and rejoiced by all, Najib has set – as one of his first administrative directive – a ruling that is technically unsound, unjustified and irrationalized.
What is the justification for Najib to release the ISA detainees in the first place? After all, these detainees – according to the Home Minister, Syed Hamid Albar – were detained to prevent them from acting in a manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia.
It is pertinent to re-visit the relevant provision of the ISA: –
“Section 8 ISA – Ministerial Order of Detention
(1) If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to the maintenance of essential services therein or the economic life thereof, he may make an order (hereinafter referred to as “a detention order”) directing that that person be detained for any period not exceeding two years. “
If the detention of these detainees were by reason that they were all a threat to the security of the country, then wouldn’t it be wrong to free them without any sound and reasonable justification. Can a captive group of individuals be deemed a threat to society one day; and be deemed “reformed” the next day?
THIS ONLY SHOWS THAT, PERHAPS, THERE WAS NO JUSTIFICATION TO DETAIN THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.
And – pleasing as the decision may be – Najib has no business announcing the release of detainees on his day of investiture. It gives the unpleasant scoff that the new PM is ordaining some sort of pardon for political prisoners. Perhaps he envisages himself as a monarchist-of-sorts, clout by the power of pardon – which incidentally, is only legally availed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Article 42 of the Federal Constitution.
I do not know when it was actually concluded that the 13 detainees are no longer a threat to society but I do hope it was not a decision reached earlier. If the detainees are deemed no longer a threat, they should be released IMMEDIATELY, not a day longer. Not wait till Najib’s appointment ceremony for him to gain political clout and mileage, as if some sort of symbolic releasing of pigeons from the cage.
That is what is so wrong with the ISA in the first place – it is used as a tool by the Government. Caught one day – released the other – without the opportunity of a fair trial. All of which decided by the same person of bodies – acting as judge, jury and executioner.
My take on the whole issue is this: –
1. The ISA is a draconian piece of legislation which should be repealed. In fact, any law that tacitly allows detention without trial should be removed forthright;
2. If the use of the ISA is allowed to continue, please, for God’s sake, do not misuse the Act for one’s own benefit. The ISA was put in place for fight against the communist in the 60s. It is not intended to be utilized against political opposition;
3. The use of the ISA involves a person’s freedom and liberty. Use it wisely and sparingly. If in doubt, don’t. And if someone should or ought to be set free, do so immediately. Don’t wait for a day of inauguration; or before the elections; or the King’s birthday; or National Day etc … to order release of detainees.