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Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Tuesday, 7th April 2009:

Abolish the ISA and repeal restrictions attached to the release of detainees

I welcome the decision by Malaysia's new Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to release 13 prisoners who were detained under the Internal Security Act or ISA. I also laud his move to lift the ban on two opposition newspapers.

But Najib's announcements come at the time of three crucial by-elections which would gauge peoples' support for the newly-minted premier. Therefore, it raises doubts as to whether Najib is strategising to manipulate pertinent issues to shore up his support within ruling UMNO and the people and entrench his position as the nation's 6th premier.

It is clear that Najib is under pressure to portray himself as a democratic leader to neutralise allegations of corruption and links to the lurid, sensational murder of the Mongolian model, Altantuya Shaariibuu.

The nation has bore witness to the initial clampdown on fundamental rights by Najib in a bid to bolster support for himself ahead of the UMNO elections.

Peaceful demonstrations were forcefully stopped by baton-wielding policemen, candlelight vigils were banned and Jerit cyclists were repeatedly harassed before they were allowed to submit their memorandum, calling for basic rights, in Parliament.

The list goes on. Bloggers were continuously persecuted and a private investigator who gave a sworn statement implicating Najib in the murder of Shaariibuu is still missing.

But we see a sudden reversal of his policies as Najib takes over the top job in the country. It is clear that these decisions have not been given careful thought and were implemented to sway voters in Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai to cast their votes in favor of BN candidates.

But the rakyat cannot be fooled. As such, I urge Najib to be consistent in his leadership to uphold the principles of democracy, accountability and good governance.

Furthermore, these actions alone by Najib are not enough. The ISA negates the grains of democracy by disallowing detainees to be charged in an open court. It is a draconian, archaic law which has long passed its expiry date.

Najib's unexpected release of the 13 individuals candidly reflects that their arrests were unlawful and unwarranted. Therefore, I strongly urge the newly-minted premier to abolish the Act and release all other ISA prisoners with immediate effect.

I call upon the Prime Minister to reverse the continued punishment inflicted upon the two recently released Hindraf leaders and others. Their right to free movement and free speech has been curbed for a year. Such punitive measures do not augur well in building confidence in the reform and renewal strategy that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak proposes for the nation.

Najib has just taken over an unenviable job from former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Frivolous and hasty decisions, implemented to fool the people, will not help the government to regain the confidence of Malaysians including the yet- to- be- defined - One Malaysia. People First. Performance Now - phenomenon.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang



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