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Monday, April 4, 2011

My Say No to ISA

My Say No to ISA
Angela A.

The ISA? What? The Internal Security Act that is still being used in countries like South Africa, Malaysia and Singapore. In fact the ISA is a legacy of British colonial rule that was used ostensibly against communists.

Like many others in Malaysia, I had never encountered or known much about the ISA until 1987 where it seems in two quick swoops, Singapore had invoked the ISA and Malaysian authorities, likewise.

Known as 'Operasi Lallang', those arrested in Malaysia included academics, opposition leaders, social activists, environmentalists, Christian activists and some Muslims who had converted to Christianity. Among those who were detained, were people that I was acquainted with.

Some of my friends who had worked at The Star found themselves without a job as the government had revoked its publishing permit. The Star had up to that point published some articles that the government must have considered anti-government. During those months of shutdown, it suffered serious financial losses. (Since that episode, regular Star readers would agree with me that its reporting has not been the same, like an edge has been taken away from it.)

During that period of uncertainty, people feared further arrests and anyone it seems could be taken in. Some Malaysians who were aboard at that time who warned not to return as no one was sure who was really on the government's hit list. Word also got round about how those detained had been tortured in there and made to confess to things that they did not commit.

For the first time in my life as a Malaysian I was confronted by ISA - detention without trial. And for the first time for someone that had always been apolitical, literally, my response had been fear and disbelief. That in a modern day and age, the government could act in such a militant way to curb and quell dissent?

We live in a society where the government does not like to be questioned though a very small minority including the opposition members, non-governmental organisation leaders, and academics have been fearless in taking the government to task. And their reward has been to be visited and revisited by the infamous ISA!

Most of the mainstream media toe the government line anyway. The government already controls the press and many institutions of power. Inspite of so much control, they still resort to threats of using and using the ISA as and when it suits them.

Many official and even inconsequential documents (for example toilet rolls used in public organisations) in a government department or organisation including schools are already also now governed by the Official Secrets Act. Sometimes when you try to quote some pretty straightforward answers or information, the likely response is "That's OSA, sorry!".

Perahaps it shows the nakedness of power. The only way they can retain power is to force it onto people. The Malaysian public is certainly not apathetic but fear and greed guide us. The bottom line is, "What's in it for us?" .

The 1987 events left a deep scar in me - fear! Fear that the government will always seek to control and wipe out dissent and differences of opinions and views. And I as an individual, like other Malaysians, will continue to be powerless.

Therefore, I would support any petition to ask the government to repeal the ISA. Don't you have enough tools of control?

Angela A. is proud to be Malaysian but hopes (in vain?) that one day the ISA Act will be repealed.

source: http://www.tranungkite.net/lama/berita7/pillai42.htm

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