ISA – the irrelevant law?

~by: Ravi Philemon~

“Generally the power to extend detention will shift from the executive to the judiciary”, with these words the Prime Minster of Malaysia Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that the Internal Security Act (ISA) of Malaysia, will be abolished.

Announcing the abolishment of the Act in his special Malaysia Day message, Malaysia’s PM said that two new laws will be formulated to foster peace and public order; and also to prevent subversive elements, as well as to fight organised terrorism and crime. But these new laws will have shorter detention periods assured the Malaysian Prime Minister.

Except for terrorism related crimes where the power will continue to remain with the Minister, all other extension of detention can only be done through the Malaysian courts.

“The era of the all-knowing government with its monopoly on wisdom has lapsed”, said Datuk Seri Najib in explaining that the Act was being repealed as it is deemed to be no longer relevant.

In Singapore, the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act provide for preventive detention without trial, which could be renewed indefinitely.  The longest serving detainee Chia Thye Poh was imprisoned for 23 years without charge or trial, and subsequently placed under conditions of house arrest for another nine years.  The political detainees, ‘Marxist conspirators’ of 1987, were also detained under the ISA.

Has the ISA of Singapore passed the point of being relevant? Should the government of Singapore consider repealing the ISA and replace it with other more fitting laws in keeping with the times?   Especially new laws that would shift the power of detentions from the executive to the judiciary?

Full text of Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s speech HERE.

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