~by: Kenneth Jeyaretnam/Secretary-General of Reform Party~
The Reform Party welcomes the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s announcement yesterday that Malaysia would be abolishing the ISA and replacing it with new legislation aimed specifically at terrorism. We also welcome his proposals to loosen restrictions on freedom of expression and association. The Reform Party was of course set up to campaign for constitutional reform. Abolition of the ISA is an integral part of this and a key aim of our late founder, J. B. Jeyaretnam when he decided to enter politics. The replacement of the ISA by new legislation specifically aimed at combating the threat of terrorism has been one of the key points of our manifesto since July 2009. We repeat our call here for the long over-due steps of abolishing the ISA and the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act. We also seek the restoration of our fundamental constitutional rights to freedom of association and expression.
During the election we were criticized by the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr. Lim Hng Kiang, for being out-of-step with other Opposition parties. However it is clear that this PAP government is increasingly out-of-step, not only with the First World democratic nations, of which Singapore should be a member, but with our neighbours in ASEAN and the rest of Asia, most of whom are considerably freer and more democratic than Singapore. It is shameful that we now appear to have more in common with Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and North Korea, all of whom are among the poorest countries in Asia, than with Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia, let alone the First World nations.
For reference, our position on the ISA was set forth in a press release dated 27th November 2010 (http://thereformparty.net/blog/2010/11/27/mas-selamat-the-reform-party-raises-questions-and-calls-for-the-replacement-of-the-isa-by-modern-anti-terrorism-legislation/):
The Reform Party takes the threat of terrorism very seriously. That is why we demand accountability for the lapses revealed here. However we also believe in due process and the rule of law. The right to hear the evidence against you and to a fair trial is a fundamental human right and a fundamental legal principle dating back to 1214 and Magna Carta. These rights should only be abrogated in the most extreme circumstances such as a state of war or national emergency…
While being committed to the abolition of ISA the Reform Party would introduce new laws to deal with the threat of terrorism….
Instead of the unlimited detention powers of the ISA the Reform Party would strike a balance between a suspect’s habeas corpus rights and the ruthless nature of modern terrorism aiming at mass and indiscriminate killing. We suggest that the police should be able to hold terrorist suspects for up to 90 days after which they would either have to be charged or released.
It was also a central point of our manifesto to abolish restrictions on freedom of expression and this is set forth in Pledge 18 of our 19 policy pledges in the election manifesto on our website (http://thereformparty.net/voting-rp/election-manifesto/).
During our election rallies I specifically called for the abolition of the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, which gives this government control over all print media, and this was reported in our state-controlled English language newspaper, the Straits Times.