Thursday, September 25, 2008

ISA must be abolished

There can be no justice with ISA

The recent arrest of Selangor State Exco member Teresa Kok, Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin and Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng under the infamous Internal Security Act(ISA) is a deplorable act that has been condemned by all Malaysians. Although we laud the release of Tan and Kok but Raja Petra,the Hindraf leaders and about 60 others are still languishing in detention, not knowing what crime they had committed.

Of late the condemnation of the ISA not only comes from the opposition parties, NGOs and various human rights groups from within and outside the country but by even the members of the ruling party including cabinet ministers, like former Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who has even resigned in protest, a honorable gesture that is rare among our politicians these days.

We hope more of our parliamentarians attain the courage to stand up against this draconian law which has been abused frequently for political reasons. Most significantly the rakyat themselves, regardless of their race, religion and political ideology have come to detest the draconian law. Even the various religious leaders have condemned the ISA as being against the basic tenets of every faith.

Due to overwhelming public objection from all Malaysians, the government has no choice but to reconsider the use of the ISA to detain anyone for whatever reason. In fact the government should seriously consider abolishing the ISA altogether as there are enough laws to deal with those who are out to create chaos in a multiracial and multi-religious society. What is important is to apply these laws promptly and fairly on anyone who breaches them. Ethnicity and political alignment should not be the factors that determine prosecution.

Instead of heeding the call of the people and taking steps to abolish the ISA, the government is adamant that it is good and refuses to even review its implementation. The blatant disrespect for public opinion indicates its arrogance that has not reduced even after its losses in the last general election. The BN appears to be crafting its own downfall by its own arrogance and recalcitrance, not by any external forces.

It is an utterly nonsense to believe that such a draconian law like the ISA is necessary in this modern civilized era for the maintaining peace among the races. On the contrary its use not only fails to diffuse racial tension but its selective use on those who oppose the government, as is practiced, only aggravates the already existing tense situation.

Each time the nation recovers from a racial and religious conflict and is on the brink of attaining peace, harmony and progress, the ISA is invoked in the pretext of safeguarding the national security, which takes the nation back to the sixties. If this continues we will forever be in the era of the sixties, living in anxiety and fear of racial strive. How can the nation progress and move forwards when a primitive and suppressive law is frequently invoked to threaten free expression of the elite in the populace.

Racial conflicts arise due to the disparities in the socio-economic status of the various communities. To avoid such a situation, what is needed is a fair socio-economic policy for all races based on the fact that all citizens are equal and their rights as stipulated in the constitution and not draconian laws like the ISA. Nobody should be allowed to question or deny another of his constitutional rights.

Furthermore there is a need for greater commitment and zeal on the part of Umno, as the dominant partner in BN to foster more goodwill and tolerance among the races. Greater and more genuine efforts must be made to promote inter-ethnic unity by emphasizing on the many common identities we have not divide on the few differences that separate us. These are the ideals that should be taught in all schools if we what a to ensure a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous nation for our children and grandchildren.

The voice of the rakyat that transcends racial, religious and political divide is loud and clear – abolish the ISA. As a gesture to acknowledge its willingness to listen to the rakyat, the government should first release all ISA detainees and reassure the people that it will not resort to the draconian ISA in future for whatever reasons. It should then work towards abolishing the ISA once and for all. Why have a law that is detested by the vast majority of people?

Racial incitement must be checked promptly and effectively with the existing laws of the country and not by resorting to the easy way out by detention without trial, which defies the basic human rights and the fundamentals of every major religion. The ISA defies every principle of human rights and it must be resisted and fought to be abolished at all costs.

All religions alike preach respect for human rights regardless of race and social standing. In this respects, it is enlightening to see our Church, of late, taking a strong stand against ISA. Forums, signature campaigns, candlelight vigils and silent prayers have been organized in some churches. Unfortunately there are still many among us are rather passive. The church has the moral obligation to create this awareness of the social responsibility of its congregation to the nation. The least we can do is to incorporate a special prayer during all our Sunday masses for the ISA detainees and the abolishment of the ISA itself. At the same time each and every one of us must spread this awareness to those around us so that the whole nation demands the repeal of this unjust laws.

Injustices like the use of ISA to detain people without and subject them to mental and physical torture poses an important question to us as Christians. It may be pertinent for us to reflect on how Jesus himself was subjected to some form of ISA during his time. In his case it was an extreme of torture that finally led to his crucifixion. The irony is that he was arrested, accused of trumped up charges and sentenced to death in the most unjust manner for standing up for something we should all uphold - TRUTH.

The strange thing was that despite all the injustices meted out on him, Jesus did not fight back but humbly accepted all the punishment, even death. What is the lesson he is trying to convey to us through his extreme act of humility of accepting death without a fight, hatred and above all forgiving even his enemies who plotted and killed in the cruelest way? He demonstrated one of his greatest teaching, “love your enemies”,which is almost humanly impossible to follow.

We claim to be his followers but are we willing emulate his example of willing to show love to our enemies? Are we willing to rid of the hate we harbor towards those to plot our downfall and willing to forgive them unconditionally?

Dr.Chris Anthony

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