MARUAH applauds the decision by Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (‘Malaysian PM to scrap ISA’ – ST, September 16, 2011) to repeal the Malaysian Internal Security Act, remove the need for annual press and publication permits, and review the law on public assemblies.

These bold moves by the Prime Minister will, if fully implemented, bolster civil liberties in Malaysia and improve conformance with universal human rights norms. Indeed, ASEAN’s very own ASEAN Charter requires member states to adhere to the principles of democracy, respect fundamental freedoms and protect and promote human rights.

While the Prime Minister did announce two new laws for maintaining peace and wellbeing, he made the very important commitment to ensure that court orders are required for detentions, excluding detentions under anti-terrorism laws. MARUAH congratulates the Malaysian government for these progressive steps, which would not have been possible without the courageous work by Malaysian NGOs, lawyers and ex-detainees in the past decades.

Singapore’s own Internal Security Act, as well as the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act and the laws governing public assemblies, are very similar to the Malaysian laws. Indeed, in early 1991, then-Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said that Singapore will seriously consider abolishing our Internal Security Act if Malaysia were to do so. While the world has changed dramatically in the 20 years since, Malaysia’s decision sends the very strong message that these laws are unjustifiable today, if they ever were justifiable.

On September 22, Singapore will appear before the UN Human Rights Council again, as part of the Universal Periodic Review. MARUAH urges the Singapore Government to use that opportunity to show that Singapore will not be an anachronistic outlier in the international community on human rights.

Specifically, MARUAH calls on the Singapore Government to abolish our own Internal Security Act and replace it with a specific anti-terrorism law that includes the appropriate protections for detainees’ rights, and to enhance civil liberties in Singapore by abolishing the need for annual press and publication permits and the restrictions on public assemblies in Singapore.

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