The Internal Security Act or fondly referred to as the ISA was a piece of legislation primarily put into place to face communist threats. The late Sir Hugh Hickling was a parliamentary draughtsman and legal advisor to authorities in 1960 in what was then Malaya when the ISA came into effect. He had previously noted that the law is draconian and had been abused to quell political dissent, social activism and legitimate democratic expression by concerned citizens. We have heard this being echoed for years. (Visit http://nightsoveregypt.wordpress.com/2007/02/28/remembering-reginald-hugh-hickling-1920-2007/)
What is the ISA? The preamble to the Act says: “An Act to provide for the internal security of Malaysia, preventive detention, the prevention of subversion, the suppression of organized violence against persons and property in specified areas of Malaysia, and for matters incidental thereto”. You can see that the net is open to wide interpretation.
What is more worrisome is that according to section 8B of the Act, the Judge cannot review the substantive decisions of the Minister in making the order. The courts can only look at whether the procedural requirements have been followed.
One of the major worry with preventive detention laws is the welfare of the detainee while under detention. You cannot ascertain their welfare but for the assurances given by the detaining authority. I always am concerned when I have depend on assurances as I would rather have the relevant law in place which will allow me to ascertain it for my self.
What about visitation rights? Ordinarily, you cannot be certain if you can visit the detainee within 14 days of arrest or even within 60 days of arrest.
Further, the detainee could be detained for 2 years at a time. And hence, indefinitely.
To say that a preventive detention law is completely unnecessary may not be accurate in the light of terrorist activities around the world. However, safeguards to prevent abuse by the politicians or the police is necessary. There must be safeguards to ensure personal justice.
Hence, amendments to the law is over due.