Many thanks to Jaya for the effort in writing up this FAQ
FAQs on ISA
INTERNAL SECURITY ACT, 1960 (Act 82) is an Act to provide for the internal security of Malaysia, preventive detention, the prevention of subversion, the suppression of organised violence against persons and property in specified areas of Malaysia, and for matters incidental thereto. [West Malaysia – 1st August. 1960; East Malaysia – 16th September 1963.]
WHEREAS action has been taken and further action is threatened by a substantial body of persons both inside and outside Malaysia-
(1) To cause, and to cause a substantial number of citizens to fear, organized violence against persons and property; and
(2) To procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of the lawful Government of Malaysia by law established;
AND WHEREAS the action taken and threatened is prejudicial to the security of Malaysia;
AND WHEREAS Parliament considers it necessary to stop or prevent that action;
- WHAT IS ISA?
· The Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) is a preventive detention law in force in Malaysia.
· Any person may be detained by the police for up to 60 days without trial for an act which allegedly prejudices the security of the country.
· After 60 days, one may be further detained for a period of two years each, to be approved by the Minister of Home Affairs, thus making indefinite detention without trial.
· In 1989, the powers of the Minister under the legislation were made immune to judicial review by virtue of amendments to the Act. Now, only the courts are ‘allowed’ to examine and review technical matters pertaining to the ISA arrest.
- WHEN DID THE ISA BECOME LAW?
· The precursor to the ISA was the Emergency Ordinance 1948 -1960 promulgated by the British Colonial Regime to counter the then Communist Insurgency
· The ISA came into force on 1st. August 1960
- WHY WAS THE ISA INTRODUCED?
· The Government of Malaya legislated the ISA as a continuation of the Emergency Ordinance 1948 to specifically deal with the threat of the Communist Insurgency
· When the ISA was introduced in 1960, solemn promises were made in Parliament by then prime minister Tun Abdul Razak and his deputy Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman that the law will be used judiciously and only against communists, terrorists and subversives
· The Communist Insurgency officially ended in 1989 with the signing of the Haadyai Peace Accord
- WHAT ARE THE GOVERNMENT’S REASONS FOR RETAINING ISA AFTER THE PEACE ACCORD OF 1989?
- No country can do without preventive detention laws to safeguard internal security.
- Security and stability are pre-requisites to ensure economic prosperity. Laws like the ISA are indispensable tools for maintaining the racial, religious and social harmony.
- Preventive laws like the ISA are needed to deal with the potential problems and conflicts in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural society.
- The ISA is not only about preventive detention. It deals with such matters as ban on quasi-military organizations and subversive publications, restriction on the movement of undesirable persons and proclamation of security areas.
- The ISA is needed in this age of cross-border terrorism to safeguard the sovereignty of the nation.
- HOW MANY ARE IN DETENTION?
· Since August 1960, 10,662 people have been arrested under the various preventive detention laws
· 4,139 were detained under Internal Security Act
· 2,066 were served with restriction orders governing their activities and where they live.
· 12 people were executed for offences under the ISA between 1984 and 1993.
· As of December 2008, 46 people are still under detention. These include:
Darul Islam – 13
Hindraf – 5
“Jemaah Islamiah” – 16
Document falsification – 10
Miscellaneous – 2
- WHO ARE THE PEOPLE MOST AFFECTED BY THE ISA DETENTIONS?
· The spouses, children and close family members who are deprived of their loved ones and; often times the primary source of their household income
· The family members are faced with the social stigma, and in many cases are ostracised by relatives, neighbours, and friends
· The family members have also known to face ‘harassment’ from the Authorities
- WHY THE ISA IS CONSIDERED A DRACONIAN LAW BY CIVIL SOCIETY?
· The ISA is contrary to fundamental principles of international law, including the right to liberty of the person, to freedom from arbitrary arrest, to be informed of the reasons for arrest, to the presumption of innocence, and to a fair and open trial in a court of law
· The ISA goes against the right of a person to defend himself in an open and fair trial. The person can be incarcerated up to 60 days of interrogation without access to legal counsel.
· A person detained under the ISA during the first 60 days is held incommunicado, with no access to the outside world.
· Torture goes concurrently with ISA detention. Former detainees have testified to being subjected to severe physical and psychological torture. This may include one or more of the following: physical assault, forced nudity, sleep deprivation, round-the-clock interrogation, death threats, threats of bodily harm to family members, including threats of rape and bodily harm to their children.
· Prolonged torture and deprivation have led to detainees signing state-manufactured ‘confessions’ under severe duress
· The Internal Security Act (ISA) remains the core of the permanent, arbitrary powers to detain without trial available to the Executive.
· The ISA has been consistently used against people who criticise the government and defend human rights. The Act is an instrument maintained by the ruling government to control public life and civil society.
· Since 1960 when the Act was enacted, thousands of people including trade unionists, student leaders, labour activists, political activists, religious groups, academicians, NGO activists have been arrested under the ISA. Many political activists in the past have been detained for more than a decade.
· Beyond the violation of basic rights experienced by particular individuals, the ISA has had a wider, intimidating effect on civil society, and a marked influence on the nature of political participation and accountability in Malaysia.
· The ISA has been used to suppress peaceful political, academic and social activities, and legitimate constructive criticism by NGOs and other social pressure groups. It limits the political space for important debates on issues of economic policy, corruption and other social challenges.
- WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR ABOLISHING THE ISA?
· The ISA permits the executive to detain any one it likes without a court trial, without any possibility of judicial review of the minister’s decision and without any limits on how many two-year periods of detention may be ordered.
· The ISA is a blatant violation of all international canons of rule of law, natural justice and due process.
· Article 149 of the Constitution under which the ISA is enacted permits special legislation when subversive action has been taken or threatened “by any substantial body of persons”. The use of the ISA to detain individual dissidents indulging in non-violent opposition to the Government in peace time is a violation of the letter and spirit of Article 149.
· National sovereignty is a shield against foreign aggression but it cannot be used as a weapon against one’s own people. There is a difference between national security and security of the government. The 1SA has often been used to safeguard the latter and not the former.
· The overall effect of the ISA is that the executive is allowed to play the role of accuser, investigator as well as adjudicator. No government can allow one man to exercise such complete power over another’s life and liberty.
- HOW WILL THE NATION COUNTER THE THREAT OF CROSS-BORDER TERRORISM IF THE ISA IS ABOLISHED?
· The Government can introduce an Anti-Terrorism Act specifically designed to counter cross-border terrorism. However due process must be incorporated in this legislation to ensure the rights of the individual.
- WHY SHOULD I SUPPORT THE MOVEMENT TO ABOLISH THE ISA?
· You, your family, your friends are not ‘safe or immune’ from detention under ISA.
· A police officer with the rank of Inspector and above can arrest without a warrant and detain you for a period of 60 days with or without ‘good’ reasons for suspicion
· You need to defend your democratic right to freedom of speech, assembly and association as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Federal Constitution
- WHAT CAN I AS AN INDIVIDUAL CITIZEN DO TO SUPPORT THE “NO2ISA” MOVEMENT?
· Educate yourself first, then your family, friends and co-workers on the basics of the ISA
· Lobby your MPs and ADUNs to pressure the Government to abolish ISA
· Join and contribute to initiatives organised by Civil Society groups to abolish ISA
2 January 2009