ISA: A tool to preserve democracy

This is simply too much talk against the much dreaded Internal Security Act (ISA), by persons practicing precarious politics to win and assume power. It was introduced by the British Administrators previously as Emergency Ordinance (upon the formal declaration of Emergency in 1948, after uprising of communist terrorists) and superseded in 1960 by a Parliament act. It is now an integral part of the Federation of Malaysia Constitution.

When introduced fifty years ago today, then Home Minister Dato’ Ismail Abdul Rahman (later Tun and died as Deputy Prime Minister) said in the Dewan Rakyat that ISA is neccesary for multi-ethnic, cultural and faith Malaysians to preserve democracy in the healthy and progressive manner.

Excerpts from his speech:

“I maintained then and I maintain now the view that the Internal Security Act is essential to the security of this country especially when democracy is interpreted the way it is interpreted in this country. To those in opposition to the government democracy is interpreted to mean absolute freedom, even the freedom to subvert the nation. When cornered by the argument that democracy in the Western sense means freedom in an ordered society and an ordered society is one in which the rule of law prevails, they seek refuge in the slogan that we should imitate Western democracy one hundred per cent.

I am convinced that the Internal Security Act as practiced in Malaysia is not contrary to the fundamentals of democracy. Abuse of the Act can be prevented by vigilant public opinion via elections, a free Press and above all the Parliament


In 1956 when Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra of UMNO led three-party-coalition which won the first free elections 0f 1955 managed to convince HRH Rulers, who were then given the ‘first right of refusal’ by British to take over Federation of Malaya upon Independence, to give up the absolute right to govern and instead adopt the Westminster-style ‘Constitutional Monarchy’ democratic system and agreed to accept one million state-less Non Malays as citizens (previously not regarded as ‘subjects of HRH Rulers, based on the Treaty of the Federation of Malaya 1 Feb 1948), Federation of Malaya now is laden with the complexity of multi-ethnic, cultural and belief. Unchecked, this could trigger a serious disharmony between the different ethnic groups, with diverse sensitivities, heritage, cultural and religious beliefs and expectations.

Hence, there is a need to maintain the harmony and sensitivities be observed.

Unfortunately, through out so many politicians and political aspirants (even when they claim they are not into politics, just mere being “NGO activists”) thread on very precarious and volatile fine lines of antagonising harmony, disrupting stability and subtlety process of inciting and instigating based on deceit, hatred and manipulation of facts and historical chronology and consequences. Most of them realised their position as minorities and underdogs and they needed a ‘revolutionary’ (quick and effective way) element to win the imaginations and support of the majority, even by ‘force’.

When first introduced, communist sympathizers and leftists used NGOs such as trade unions as a platform to incite and instigate the minority against the majority, in their hope to assume or seize power since the majority would never democratically elect them into office. They used their position as trade unionist, NGO leaders and community leaders to spread their politics, with the true intention to confuse and make the majority to rise against the beliefs, based on deceit, hatred and incite/instigate.

The ability to disrupt the harmony and destabilize the society with politics of hatred, incite/instigate and deceit and manipulation of facts is clearly demonstrated when DAP joint forces with Gerakan to insult the Malays, days after winning the 1969 May General Elections. The stand-off on the new post general elections Selangor Government and the confusion that lurks on the episode plus the Chinese youth shot by the Police in Kepong were capitalised fully in several days of staged procession (using the funeral as a perfect cover up) and demonstration all over Kuala Lumpur. As a result, on the afternoon of 13 May 1969 bloody racial riot broke.

Racism politics simmered down after that although communist terrorists activities, now penetrating via civil societies still continue. The third quarter of 1980s, saw the Chinese Chauvinism on the rise again and the corresponding Malay nationalism reciprocity, where the Police resorted to hail 113 politicians of various background were hauled up using ISA in “Operasi Lalang”. The term ‘Lalang’ was metaphorically used because “It was necessary to stop from dry long grass (lalang) from catching fire and becomes out of control”.

ISA was then deployed against activities of Sabah cessation by mainly Kadazan Dusun politicians like Dr Jeffrey Kittingan and Maximus Ongkili, from the confidence of post November 1990 General Elections which saw BN trampled in Sabah. There is also a lot of underworld activities in Sabah to bring in influx of illegal immigrants and the escalation of insurgent activities in neighbouring The Phillipines which warranted the use of ISA. The Abu Sayyaf related hostage taking and guerilla warfare is a clear example.

Then Malaysia saw an unprecedented upsurge of mob street politics and demonstrations-turn-riot upon the sacking of Anwar “Mat King Leather” Ibrahim from Deputy Prime Minister’s position on 2 September 1998 for ‘sexual deviancy and sodomy’ and ‘Reformasi’ was born. Suddenly, Malaysians are incited and instigated by Anwar and his band of Anwaristas in an enigma of politics of hatred, deceit and manipulation of facts. ISA was again deployed where besides Anwar, his closest and staunches Anwaristas such as Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (now Minister of Defense), Dr Zambry Abd Kadir (now MB Perak) and Ezam Md Nor (now Senator) were detained briefly. Anwar and Anwarista which is promoting the practice premise of anarchy-induced politics, again appreared in the change-over-the-Perak-Government episode in January 2009.

The upsurge of Jemaah Islamiah extremism and terrorism also compounded from the late 90s and well into the first decade of the third millenium. The robbery of the Southern Bank in Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya was an eye opener. Exactly ten years ago, Al Maunah Bukit Jenalik incident also opened new horizon on extremism attacks against Carlsberg plant and the Batu Caves temple. More and more JI related operatives and sympathizers were hauled up under ISA.

The ‘open-ness’ but weak policies of PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi allowed further abuse of the freedom of expression, threading on the lines of hatred, inciting and instigating and manipulation of facts. Some, like rogue blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Indian extremist group HINDRAF resorted to deceit in their angle hatred-induced presentation of their struggle. Needless to say, ISA was then again used to maintain stability.

Freedom of speech and expression have been grossly abused over and over again and this must be stopped, for the sake of the larger Malaysian society in diverse forms and positions. The volatility of the multi-plural Malaysia have been exposed and challenged so many times over but never compromised. In all, they have been contained and order, stability and harmony have been maintained and sustained, for daily lives to go on, progress to have been achieved and Malaysia to move on. Since Independence, Malaysia saw 12 different general elections despite attempts to violate the democracy from these acts of extremism and politics of hatred and deceit.

Majority prevails. ISA was instituted by the process of democracy. In essence, ISA is a complementary and necessary tool to preserve the healthy practice of democracy in Malaysia.

Published in: on August 1, 2010 at 09:56  Comments (43)