Posted: 10 Jan 2014 10:51 PM PST
The menace of regression is in the air and Dr Syed Husin Ali is not amused one bit.
As the author of a recent work entitled 'Malay Rulers: Reform or Regression', the second term Pakatan Rakyat senator from Selangor is decidedly uneasy about bringing back a law that was a part of the country’s retrogressive past.
The repealed Internal Security Act (ISA), a draconian holdover from the country’s colonial past that was retired from the statue books just over a year ago, is being talked into revival.
This talk makes the flesh of Syed Husin, 77, an ISA detainee for six years – from December 1974 to late 1980 – creep horribly.
“Right now, we could take no more regressive measure than to bring back that abomination,” opined the veteran politician and former Universiti Malaya professor.
Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who began his premiership in 1981 by releasing ISA detainees and dipped it in infamy by incarcerating his deputy under the Act in 1998, has spoken upfor its return.
“He forgets just a few years back he said that the ISA arrests in 1987 when he was both the home minister and prime minister were not done of his own volition but on police insistence,” recalled Syed Husin.
“That meant he shirked his responsibility as the minister empowered under the law to determine whether the ISA arrests should be made, thus submitting to what was effectively a police state at that point in time,” recapped Syed Husin, alluding to what he feels is apt to result when people of authoritarian bent are given untrammeled powers that come with laws like the ISA.
Inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar has also talked upthe need to add detention without trial, which was what the repealed ISA provided for, to the police arsenal in dealing with rising tensions in the country over issues such as the ‘Allah’ controversy.
“He forgets what a High Court judge said about his responsibility for the custodial death of A Kugan and now he wants more power for the police to deal with recalcitrant civil society types,” said Syed Husin.
A manufactured crisis
This member of the Senate rejected the argument that tensions are rising in the country because of the controversy over the Allah issue.
“This is a manufactured crisis to divert the attention of the people from the rising cost of living. The voices of the few protesting the use of this and that word are being played up to seem like things are getting out of control but the crowds that actually turn up for the protests are small,” said Syed Husin.
“People are more concerned with what is happening to their purchasing power,” he added.
“Given firm and rational statements from the powers-that-be and all that manufactured gas would go out of the bags,” quipped Syed Husin.
“But no, it’s not in their interests to stop this thing. They allow matters to build up so that their aim of diverting the people’s attention from more pressing issues is achieved,” he said.
The senator said the public are not that gullible these days which is why, he said, religious and racial charlatans are not getting the crowds they once could summon.
“Inciters are not getting the crowds they hope for. This is an effect of the debate that is taking place in the media, both mainstream and alternative.
“So long as the debaters are not inflammatory, they should be allowed to air their views. There is no justification for the return of the ISA," said Syed Husin.
"Abominable injustices were committed under the ISA. We must not allow a repeat of those injustices."
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