The Spectre of ISA: Broken Promises and Freedom Forgone

SUARAM would like to express our concern in regards to the regrettable usage of the Special Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and other legislation that permits detention without trial in the recent days.

Legislation that permits detention without trial is not unheard of elsewhere abroad. In light of the threats posed by terrorism following the incidents on the 11th of September 2001, it is unsurprising that many would opt for preventive measures that would be distasteful and morally bankrupt in another era. With the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, it is unfortunate that Malaysia chose to take a step further backward and strengthen such preventive measures.

Malaysia had a cause to celebrate in 2012 when the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) was repealed. Despite the merry and festive mood it had created, we must face the grim reality that the victory for civil and political freedom was nothing more than a symbolic victory as other legislation that permits detention without trial still operate with impunity. The victory was naught but a mirage when the government tabled SOSMA in Parliament. Irrespective of the threat posed by terrorists across the globe, preventive measures such as these should not be the norm and our ‘go to’ plan for tackling the issue of terrorism.

Terror threats aside, the misuse of ISA during its prime should have been an adequate lesson for all. The dangers of anti-terrorism legislation being used for political gain was a real danger and not a fictional one. While we acknowledge that SOSMA have been utilized to address terror threats and genuine threat to national security in the past, the recent usage of SOSMA may be the first step back into the dark days of ISA. The detention of Khairuddin Abu Hassan under SOSMA in conjunction with chargers under Section 124K and 124L of the Penal Code is a regrettable incident highlighting the dangers of SOSMA and its similarity to ISA.

With our competent and adequately trained police force, we see no reason why the Royal Malaysian Police cannot conduct fair investigation and press chargers without resorting to SOSMA. Further, the decision to re-arrest Khairuddin after his release by the court shows little to no regards to the decision made by the Judiciary of Malaysia. As a country that practices rule of law, the police force must take into the account of the decision made by the courts and not act with impunity and forcefully overturn the court’s decision.

SUARAM would like to reiterate our stance against ALL form of detention without trial and we do not condone nor support the usage of ANY legislation that grants such powers to any or all governmental agency. With this in mind, SUARAM would like to reiterate its call for the:

  1. Abolishment of SOSMA and all other legislation allowing detention without trial; and
  2. The immediate release of all detainees held under such legislations
Released by,
Sevan Doraisamy
Executive Director
SUARAM