Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Recently, The Star published a letter by a reader who lauded the utility and necessity of the ISA in keeping Malaysia peaceful. I sent in the following response to that letter:
I respectfully disagree with 'ISA has made the country more peaceful' (The Star, April 16). Firstly, if the era of 'government knows best' has ended then logically the ISA is the last thing to support given that it allows, in effect, the incarceration of persons identified by the executive without trial. In fact, it is pretty much the ideal tool for enforcing that very dictum.

Secondly, should errant bloggers choose to write incendiary posts without evidence to back their claims then it is up to intelligent readers to decide for themselves whether or not to accept these unsubstantiated accounts. It is not for the government to decide what the public can or cannot read. Even if there is cause to believe that those bloggers have committed libel or sedition, they should be charged in court under the Defamation or Sedition Act, respectively, rather than the ISA, so that they may get their due process. (The same logic applies to street protesters.)

The fact of the matter is, we have more than enough laws to cover 'those who wish to harm the well-being of the people'. To depend on the ISA only serves to absolve oneself of personal responsibility towards critical engagement of information—from either side of the fence—and to discharge the government from its responsibility to treat the people in a mature and fair fashion.
They chose not to run it. (This was despite the fact that there is obvious ironic value in publishing a letter criticizing the ISA that was written in reply to a letter admonishing members of the public for doing just that.) And here I had such high hopes after they printed a previous letter of mine which, although superficially dissimilar in subject matter, involved the same broad notion of shifting culpability from institutions to one's own self.


Update, 22nd April 2009:
Last September, Al Jazeera's People & Power aired a report on the ISA in which then-Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar tried his level best to rationalise the existence of the act; such heights of paternalism and sophistry have never been seen.

posted by Hong at 3:45 am | Permalink |