KOTA BARU: Sept 14, 2008 By IAN McINTYRE
Courtesy of Malaysiakini
The Internal Security Act (ISA) should not be used against civilians, de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said.
The Act should only be used against terrorists or those trying to topple the Government by force, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said at a press conference at his home here on Sunday.
He was commenting on the arrests of three people -- Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin and Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng -- under the ISA.
Tan has since been released.
“I will seek a meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to have a frank discussion about this issue to seek his views as soon as possible,” he told reporters.
“I know I am breaking rank here ... I am prepared to face the consequences. If I am told to resign, I will do so.
"I am not a trouble maker and I don't want to cause any trouble for the Prime Minister, but I have my principles and will always be a vocal critic of the use of the ISA.
"I joined his administration to make changes and everybody knows, I am also for a more open form of media reporting," he added.
Zaid said it was time for the Federal Government to revert to the original spirit of the ISA, which was enacted to curb Communism and today should be used only on armed terrorists or those out to topple the Government by force.
“I am not calling for a repeal of the ISA, but it should only be use when there is a real threat to national security, such as armed terrorists, and not on civilians,” he said.
He said by using the ISA randomly, the Government was sending out a message that it does not trust the capabilities of its own enforcement agencies, such as the police, in maintaining peace.
There are ample punitive legislations such as the Penal Code, Sedition Act and criminal defamation to take against those who break the law or are involved in activities which may destabilise the Government, without having to invoke the ISA, Zaid said.
He said the use of the ISA also gives the impression of “selective prosecution” as the Government cannot incarcerate everybody.
“In this latest episode, we (the Government) have generated an impression of selective prosecution since no action was taken against the person who allegedly uttered seditious remarks.
“We are saying that we are only acting against those who are disloyal to us.”
“The Government needs to change and Cabinet members need to realise this -- we have to be progressive.”
Asked whether the ISA was likely used because of strained “race relations” which may undermine national stability, Zaid said that while he placed paramount importance on national stability, the role of the Government was to find solutions, not to make matters worse.
“I agree we have many issues and sensitivities to address but for me, racial disharmony is a seasonal thing in Malaysia. We must engage in open dialogues and discussions to resolve these issues,” he said.
On whether the ISA was used because the court process may be too long, Zaid noted that the Government never even attempted to use the court system first -- instead, it simply went ahead with using the ISA first.
“If our court system is too slow, we must ... make it more efficient by hiring more prosecutors, while the police must conduct proper investigation to acquire credible evidence,” he said.