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Media Statement by Liew Chin Tong in Bukit Bendera on Saturday, 4th April 2009:

Malaysians see through Najib’s tokenism

The newly-minted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his maiden speech has announced the release of 13 ISA detainees and promised to conduct a comprehensive review of the notorious Act that allows detention without trial. It is a welcoming gesture but many Malaysians have seen through the tokenism over the years.

The ISA has been “comprehensively reviewed” by the government or public opinion for many times since it was first enacted in 1960. The Royal Commission on Police Reform, which submitted its report in 2005, contained recommendations on ISA.

While it was initially intended as an anti-communist legislation, the Act has been used all every administration of the last half-century to target legitimate political opponents, including dissidents from within UMNO.

The last three Prime Ministers during the initial periods of their ascensions also released ISA detainees and promised to review the notorious Act, only to renege on their promises later.

Two weeks after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad came into power in July 1981, dozens of ISA detainees, including Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad and Dr Syed Husin Ali were released by Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam in his capacity as Home Minister, giving credence to the claims that the “2M” government was to herald “unprecedented openness” in governance.

ISA detainees such as Batu MP Tian Chua and Ezam Mohd Noor were released upon the expiry of their two-year detention order shortly before the ascension of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi even though they were detained earlier on the order of Abdullah in his capacity as Internal Security Minister. The promise to conduct comprehensive review of police and related security laws fell flat in the end.

The release of the two out of five Hindraf lawyers, V. S. Ganapathi Rao and R. Kenghadaran, is not sufficient to inspire confidence in the Najib administration that its reform promise would not end up like that of the two previous administrations.

All five Hindraf lawyers should be released with immediate effect. In fact, all ISA detainees should either be released or be charged in open court, immediately.

If not, such a tokenism, will only be seen as an election gimmick aiming to garner support for Barisan Nasional at the triple by-elections on 7th April, which will only reinforce the view that ISA arrest, and release, are politically motivated.

Malaysians are asking the same question – why is it the government always seek to “review” the ISA, instead of just abolishing the draconian law that has no place in a democratic society?

* Liew Chin Tong, DAP International Secretary & MP for Bukit Bendera



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