Now and then preventive detention laws without charges and trials are hotly debated topics on the Malaysian political scene. In the past, detention laws like for example, the Internal Security Act, was successful in creating peace inMalaysia. Its use to detain suspicious persons involved in communist activities, terrorism or activities that create unrest in society in the 50s, 60s, and 70s did bring notable outcomes. Despite their usefulness in those eras, these laws are now a miscarriage of justice. As a matter of fact, there is no justice. Justice here is based on the knowledge of the Government’s insistence for its policy to be either successful and/or accepted. It’s also a slippery slope where policies are justified to prevent deliberations.
Last year, Najib’s Administration tabled a bill to reform the Internal Security Act. Despite many governmental agencies and laypersons view this as progress, its not. Basically, detention laws like the ISA do not require a formal criminal trial in Court. As long as the Government thinks that a citizen’s action or activity is subversive and/or a threat to national security, they can order that person be detained without a trial. The question here is do we need these laws today? The answer is simple… ABOLISH ALL DETENTION LAWS! The following are why such laws are no longer useful.
A. The simple fact is all democracies respect the rule of law
Detention laws are retaliatory in nature and de facto punishment without due process. It behaves like a bullet firing from a gun travelling at maximum velocity to its intending target incapacitating the individual to death or severe injuries. There is no space for arguments, conciliatory communication or counseling – these laws act as passive violence.
B. Detention is indefinite
It does not specify how long an individual is detained. Basically, if the Government feels that the individual is dangerous, the detention order is prolonged. Come to think about it – it’s actually a form of solitary confinement, well, psychologically, the detained person feels confined to an institution and perhaps had waived any release date from his inhibitions. Even a prisoner sentenced to death has prior knowledge of his or her end of days.
C. Cruel and unusual
Detentions in these centers are Spartan and basically they are penal coffins, especially when an individual is unable to secure a release date. Many citizens also do not have first hand knowledge as to the extent of these institutions for detention. Reports do not really discuss the conditions of these detention centers because they are to a certain extent classified. Albeit citizens do not have first hand knowledge of these institutions, there are irregular visits by officials to enhance the working order and image of these institutions run within the UN Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners. C’mon, lets not kid ourselves, these institutions are basically illegal under UN Minimum Rules because they detain people without trials.
D. Unpredicted surge of overcrowding
If there is an en masse arrest of individuals under ISA or Emergency Ordinance, can all these arrested individuals be placed in these institutions? If everyone is jam packed or sardined into a containment facility, for an unspecified duration, this is overcrowding and situation in a packed/sardined prison cell can be treacherous – not forgetting hazards like spreading of contaminants, diseases or an outbreak of fire. Overcrowded institutionalized regimes easily lead to conflicts, fights and affrays.
E. Due process & the light of truth
Detaining an individual without trial is detrimental to the truth behind the detentions. NGOs and interested individuals can easily concoct conspiracy theories to unravel the incorrigible actions of the Government and most times this may lead to “suppression of freedoms” generalizations. Such suspicions will only seep deeper as more citizens are aware of “tactics” which may generally be deemed totalitarian. Nevertheless, having a trial whether its good or bad, a trial can still minute and record proceedings and that’s the prove of record, albeit controversial, is still evidentiary material. Unrecorded verbatims are merely hearsay.
F. Trials set precedent
Court cases once recorded are materials of reference and authorities will refer to purported cases and perhaps will not repeat mistakes again. Legal authorities can always infer of court cases to caution authorities on high handed tactics and techniques.
Here again, I urge that the Government should repeal all the detention laws. Reforming the ISA is a futile exercise.