Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should seriously consider reintroducing the Internal Security Act (ISA) in a revised form or introducing an equivalent thereto in the broader interest of national security and harmony.
The act was a consequence of preventive detention laws that were implemented by the British in 1948 during the Malayan Emergency to combat the armed insurgency of the Malayan Communist Party.
On the 10th of April 2012, the GoM under Najib tabled the Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill to repeal and replace the Internal Security Act 1960.
The move was met with ire by Mahathir, who, on the 7th of May 2012, said that if a religious extremist were to form a political party here, the ISA or its equivalent would be the only way to curb threats that could arise.
SUBANG JAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should seriously consider reintroducing the Internal Security Act (ISA) in a revised form or introducing an equivalent thereof in the broader interest of national security and harmony.
While the law had repeatedly been abused by Mahathir himself in the past, there needs to be a holistic approach in rethinking tenets to its construct towards curbing the prevalence of subversive provocations with religious overtones.
On the 15th of September 2011, the Government of Malaysia (GoM) under the leadership of Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak announced plans to repeal the controversial act, first introduced in 1957 after Malaya gained independence from the British.
The act was a consequence of preventive detention laws that were instituted by the British in 1948 during the Malayan Emergency to combat the armed insurgency of the Malayan Communist Party.
While tenets to these laws remain a definite feature in Malaysian jurisprudence, it was not until 1960 that the (then) GoM passed the ISA under authority granted by Article 149 the Federal Constitution of Malaya.
On the 10th of April 2012, the GoM under Najib tabled the Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill to repeal and replace the ISA.
In a twist of irony, Najib ended up being the first Prime Minister to pilot the abolition of the law, which his own father, the late Tun Abdul Razak, moved to legislate in Parliament in 1960.
The move was met with ire by Mahathir, who, on the 7th of May 2012, was quoted by Chinese vernacular newspaper Kwong Wah Daily as saying that Najib was forced to accede to the now defunct Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) demands as he feared losing electoral support.
According to the Penang-based daily, Mahathir blamed Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for transferring a weak Barisan Nasional (BN) government to Najib, resulting in him (Najib) having to bow to demands from the federal opposition.
The report quoted Mahathir as defending the ISA, saying that if a religious extremist were to form a political party here, the ISA or its equivalent would be the only way to curb threats that could arise.
This is true.
While the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, did offer his assurance that the law would only be used against the communists and never to “stifle legitimate opposition and silence lawful dissent,” the law did provide for detention without trial in circumstances where an act by an individual or a group was deemed “prejudicial to the security of Malaysia.”
Although the act was succeeded by the toned-down Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), the latter was deemed ill-equipped to deal with circumstances relating to national security threats particularly if the threats bordered on grey areas within the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
One such area is the freedom of religion provided by Article 11 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which, among others, states that every person has the right to profess and practice his (or her) religion and to propagate it.
Accordingly, while the proselytising of Muslims by members of other religions is not prohibited by the Article, it is prohibited in 10 of 13 states (excepting Penang, Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territories) and can lead to lengthy jail sentences and strokes of the rotan (whipping).
Despite this, the repeal of the ISA emboldened many a non-Muslim and political party to openly castigate the GoM on religious related matters without first channelling grievances and (or) grouses through proper channels or seeking discourses leading to amicable resolutions.
A case in example is what transpired when the GoM undertook to ban the Iban and Malay language versions of the Bible (the Alkitab and the Bup Kudus) that several factions within the DAP were accused of promoting in Sabah, Sarawak and the West Coast of the Peninsula to confuse Muslims.
While objections to the ban among could easily have been resolved through proper channels and (or) discourse, the DAP leaned more towards the churches and the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) and lambasted the GoM in public, much to the detriment of national security and harmony.
It would be difficult to prove this in the court of law.
When reprimanded, many a lawyer, activist and cleric who leaned favourably towards the DAP evoked Article 10 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which, among others, guarantees citizens the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.
They conveniently ignored the fact that freedom of speech was not without limit and is subject to various clauses, tenets and precedents peculiar to both the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and Malaysian jurisprudence, not just Article 10 of the constitution.
The very public back and forth that ensued between them and BN lawyers ended up fuelling a culture of insolence among non-Muslim Malaysians, many of whom took to the social media to censure and demonise both the Muslims and the religion of Islam on the pretext of it being within the scope of their rights.
They were encouraged by paid Pakatan cyber troopers who contributed immensely to racial tensions, a menace that has temporarily been subdued but is nonetheless there, waiting to rear its ugly head and precipitate mayhem once the euphoria following Barisan’s unprecedented defeat during the 14th general election subsides.
It is high time the GoM addressed the issue by coordinating efforts between the various Malay and Muslim based parties in Malaysia towards a unity resolution in the broader interests of the ummah, the religion of Islam, national security and harmony.
Once accomplished, the Muslim majority can proceed to work towards the enactment of a better-defined equivalent to the ISA before engaging in a series of discourses towards the eradication of grey areas within the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
Act before it’s too late.