Malaysia and Singapore, once the same country, have developed side by side over the years. Apart from certain marked differences such as the presence of a monarchy and the bumiputra laws, the two countries have a similar culture, with synonymous laws. One glaring resemblance between the two countries is the Internal Securities Act (ISA), a hangover from colonial times.
Being neighbouring countries, alike in so many ways, there is often competition between Malaysia and Singapore, sometimes intense and at other times, friendly. Both countries enjoy trumping the other as the "better" country.
Many critics both sides of the causeway have called for the controversial ISA to be abolished. The journey has been long and hard for campaigners against the ISA in both nations but it would seem that in this instance, Malaysia is winning the race.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced that Malaysia plans to abolish two unpopular security laws allowing detention without trial and relax other measures curbing the media and the right to free assembly (see HERE).
Under these reforms. police laws would also be amended to allow freedom of assembly according to international norms. The government will also do away with the need for annual printing and publishing licenses, giving more freedom to media groups.
Najib further said that the colonial-era ISA and the Emergency Ordinance, which allow indefinite detention without trial, would be abolished and replaced with new anti-terrorism laws which would be more up to date and therefore more suitable for dealing with current challenges. These would ensure that fundamental rights of suspects are protected. In addition, he pledged that no individuals would be detained for their political ideologies.
Najib's National Front has been working to regain public support after suffering its worst performance in the 2008 polls, when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's alliance wrested more than one-third of Parliament's seats amid public allegations of government corruption and racial discrimination and this can be seen as a move to garner support ahead of the 2013 general elections in Malaysia.
In this instance, there are yet again many parallels between Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore's PAP has just had its worst ever performance in its history. Perhaps, it is also time for the Singapore government to take a page out of Malaysia's book and reconsider abolishing some of its highly contentious laws?
Malaysia Boleh! Singapore Boleh?