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Thursday, August 20, 2009

ISA, Police Act amendments to include freedom of assembly

By Neville Spykerman – The Malaysian Insider

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says the ISA is only used against threats to national security and stability. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 — The government will table amendments to the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Police Act during the next Parliamentary sitting, with changes in the laws to include the freedom to assemble in specific areas without the need for a permit.Home Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein said today that among other provisions that may be relaxed is the initial 60 days detention period of the ISA.

The amendments are part of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s promised reforms.

But it is likely to fall short of demands from the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and other activists who want the ISA repealed.

“There may be only time to hold a first reading in October but hopefully the amendments can be debated by the end of the year,” said the minister

Hishammuddin denied claims that the law, which was passed in order to counter the threat of the communist insurgency in the 1960s, had ever been abused.

However he said each provision of the ISA is being reviewed along with other restrictive laws and the Police Act, in order to make them more relevant in today’s landscape.

He pointed out the ISA was still relevant and cited the example of the prevention of terrorism.

The Home Minster was speaking to the press today after chairing a special meeting on national security issues with Minster in the Prime Minster’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz and Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim.

He added the government is considering holding an “aggressive” nationwide campaign to explain their stand in reviewing the ISA and their determination not to abolish the controversial law, which allows detention without trial.

The planned campaign will provide a comprehensive explanation on the various provisions of the ISA, so people will understand the law is not draconian or used arbitrarily.

He said the awareness campaign is to inform the people that the government was serious in overcoming the weaknesses in the ISA and were moving to ensure there is no room for the law to be abused, to prevent further allegations.

“We want the people to understand that the ISA is a preventive law to protect the country and its multiracial communities.”

When asked if the ISA would still be used against politicians, he said the Home Ministry had been consistent and used the law against any threat to national security and stability.

He added the right of the majority deserved equal protection.

Today’s meeting was held following a Cabinet decision which called on the Home Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Department and the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry to co-ordinate the roles of the various agencies under their jurisdiction.

Hishammuddin said while there would not be censorship of the internet, existing laws and agencies will be used against those who commit sedition, including against bloggers who touch on sensitive issues such as religion and the royalty.

He said the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) will work more closely with the police and the Attorney-General to ensure cases are dealt with more effectively.


Posted by barred at 8/20/2009 02:49:00 AM

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