Malaysia: Ex-detainees not convinced by govt assurance

PETALING JAYA: Three Pakatan leaders, who were former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees, are not convinced by the assurances by Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that political dissidents will not be arrested using the Prevention of Crime Act (PCA).

Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad said this was especially so since the government had an “impressive” record of misusing laws.

“They have a long list of misuse of powers both politically and legally. Under the Internal Security Act (ISA) we were given assurance that it was meant only for communist terrorists,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid had given an assurance that political dissidents would not be arrested using the PCA.

Zahid had said if politicians were not involved in crime then they should not worry that the laws would be used against them.

Khalid, who is also PAS central committee member, said there had been no change in the government’s attitude, as “they do not understand the basic concept of human rights”.

“Why should we believe this verbal assurance? Verbal assurances by the Home Minister does not solve the problem of this law which is draconian in nature,” said the former ISA detainee.

Batu MP Tian Chua PKR vice-president also echoed Khalid’s sentiments.

“We do not want to hear assurances, we were assured that the ISA was for communist terrorists only, but look what had happened.

“We’re not talking about the rights of political dissenters alone, we’re talking about ordinary citizens who have been wrongly accused of a particular crime,” he said.

The PKR vice-president said as lawmakers the government was supposed to defend the rights of everybody.

“What is more important is for a particular law to be effective in combating crime.

“I do not think the PCA will be effective in combating crime, instead, it will create a lot of injustice to innocent people,” he said.

Hulu Kelang state assemblyman Saari Sungib said in 1960, similar assurances were given by then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who had tabled the ISA Bill.

“After the Act was gazetted, politicians became the target. The Act was conveniently used to detain dissidents without trial.

“A repeat of history will take place if the PCA allows detention without trial,” said the PAS information chief.

Previously, the ISA was severely criticised by human rights organisations and opposition parties as a draconian law which was abused by the government.

The ISA was a preventive law which allowed for detention without trial. In 2011, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced the repeal of the legislation, and had promised that preventive laws had no place under his transformation programmes.

However the introduction of the detention-without-trial clause under the PCA amendments had raised concerns that the government would eventually use this legislation to silence its detractors.