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Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, 5th May 2009: 

Malaysians do not want another round of claptrap about ISA reform – Najib should prove his sincerity by releasing all ISA detainees, close down Kamunting centre and suspend ISA for two years pending repeal or review

The Star yesterday carried a most misleading front-page headline “ISA review begins”, reporting that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak was honouring his promise to initiate a comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act as he had promised when he took office last month as the country’s sixth Prime Minister.

But thinking and perceptive Malaysians would have wondered whether this was the case, as many questions cropped up immediately when they read in the report that the government’s “first step towards reviewing the Internal Security Act (ISA)” was the formation of the Law Reform Committee under the chairmanship of the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong on April 29.

Is Najib really seriously about a “comprehensive review of the ISA” when the committee assigned this task is headed by such a political lightweight, who is only a Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department?

Just on his point, the whole idea of any “comprehensive review of ISA” could be dismissed as hogwash!

The story on the start of the ISA review took on a surreal and even “Alice-in-the-Wonderland’ quality when it is further reported that the Law Reform Committee’s ”first step” to undertake a “comprehensive review of the ISA” would be a briefing session on Wednesday and Thursday involving the Legal Affairs Department and the Legal Aid Bureau.

What a laughable state of affairs! What has the “comprehensive review of the ISA” got to do with these two government agencies?

The surreal and “Alice-in-the-Wonderland” quality deepened when Liew made further revelations, viz:

  • The condescending statement that his committee would work with the Home Ministry to “amend the relevant parts” of the ISA; and

  • He would “engage the Malaysian Bar and other legal associations in the country as well as the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Suhakam”.

Would the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail “engage” with such a lowly Deputy Minister in his capacity as Chairman of the Law Reform Committee, or would Liew have to “engage” with third or fourth-liners from the Home Ministry and the Attorney-General’s Chambers?

The message from the Star front-page headline report yesterday was that Najib was just not serious at all about any “comprehensive review of the ISA”, when it is left to such a political lightweight.

I withheld comment as I expected a conflicting version, and it came within hours from the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who said that it is the Home Minister, Hishammuddin who is tasked to conduct the ISA review exercise.

Now, who is responsible for the “comprehensive review of the ISA” – Liew or Hishammuddin or jointly, between a deputy minister and a full minister?

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of KPI for Ministers, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon should take note of this “Alice-in-the-wonderland” development in the Najib Cabinet, as it must drag down the KPIs of the Cabinet members concerned!

Malaysians do not want another round of claptrap by Barisan Nasional leaders about reform of Internal Security Act which ends up in nothing, as had happened many a time in the past two decades, whether under the premiership of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad or Tun Abdullah.

Najib should prove his sincerity about a “comprehensive review of ISA” by releasing all ISA detainees, close down Kamunting centre and suspend ISA for two years pending ISA repeal or review.

Muhyiddin said yesterday that the review of the ISA tasked to Hishammuddin “would take time”? Two years, three years or indefinitely until after the next general election?

This is ridiculous as in the past two premiership of Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah, the ISA had been repeatedly reviewed internally by the government, and there must be mountains of papers of such review collecting dust and mould in government archives – not to mention available parliamentary, Suhakam, Bar Council and civil society materials.

If Najib is serious about a “comprehensive review of ISA”, there is no reason why the Cabinet at its meeting tomorrow cannot decide on a deadline for such a review so that necessary legislative follow-up actions could be made in the 10-day meeting of Parliament from June 15 – 30, 2009.

After the Cabinet meeting tomorrow, Najib should let the country know who is assigned the task of the ISA “comprehensive review” – whether Liew or Hishammuddin.

Furthermore, why he is not prepared to allow a high-powered independent committee or even Suhakam to undertake such a review, giving it a one-moth deadline to submit its recommendations?

Najib and his Cabinet should not be the first to forget their new motto of “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now” so as not to become a national joke in record time to mean “1Black Malaysia. People Last. Performance Never”.

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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