The Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960 will be abolished and two new laws will be introduced to safeguard peace and order, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today (here).
The government would also repeal the Banishment Act 1959 and reviewing other laws to be in line with current needs while a comprehensive study will be carried out on the Restricted Residence Act 1993 and the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984 where annual renewals would be done away with, and replaced with issuance of licence until it is revoked.
Perhaps by dismantling the 'draconian and unjust ISA' (a reference by the Opposition and foreign governments who hail US-style of pre-emptive law which allows detention without trial at Guantanamo Bay), Najib would forever be remembered in Malaysia's history as the man who went that 'extra mile' despite dissent within party, politics, power and policy circles, to get rid of a legislation unfit for a civilised society and country like Malaysia (here).
Our PM will certainly then add a new dimension and stature to his position and win the accolades from all sides of the political divide, including the Opposition. But will this decision get to the Opposition's satisfaction?
I am not sure how others - the rakyat, politicians, the media and bloggers - would react to this but I have my own standpoint.
While supporting the dismantling of the ISA - and while waiting for the new two set of laws being introduced - the government, via the Home Ministry, should hold key grips on some elements of the ISA, especially with regards to religion and race.
I am totally against a 'free country' where freedom of speech and freedom of the Press would be used as vehicles by certain quarters to incite disharmony among our multiracial community and to challenge the authorities (esp the police and army) if the alternative laws contain more loopholes.
I remember that amendments to the ISA were supposed to be tabled at the Dewan Rakyat earlier this year but was postponed, not realising there was already an agenda to abolish the whole system. However, the announcement today fell short of a government guarantee that while the replacement laws will be suffice enough to maintain law and order in the country, the 'transition period' prior to its introduction will also be put under tight surveillance.
As our politics are under heavy influence from recent international events, we should forget that our multiracial politics differ much from that in the West or the Middle East. Our politics is not as easy to handle as that in the one-race country.
The Opposition will look out for flaws in the dismantling of ISA although they were the ones who wanted it. And now that they do not have any more quests, their attention would be focused on the new laws to be introduced.
And let us imagine Malaysia without ISA or similar laws. A free country? I don't think so. A free country will expose our citizens to a more marginalised social structure in the sense that no action could be taken against those who make disparaging remarks that belittles each others' race, religion and color.
And since our politicians are fond of riding on such sentiments, things could get even worse than before.
So, there are pros and cons to the disbanding of the ISA. Just like the disbanding of the English medium school in the late 1970s, we may take many years from now on to realise that there is a need to uphold such a system... and going back to where we had started.
Personally, I do not agree with some provisions of the ISA but some are still very much suitable in our Malaysian context.
And I also wonder what will be the function of the Home Ministry. Will the PM abolish the portfolio as well or change its name, say... to Ministry of Immigration (like Australia and some Commonwealth nations)?
Whatever it is, everything is up to the premier. Its his prerogative rights!