Friday, September 16, 2011

Najib Goes Fishing

Najib Razak announced yesterday the repeal of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) and the three Emergency Declarations when both the Dewan Negara and Dewan Rakyat have their next sitting. Also he will do away with annual printing and publishing permits with permits that can be cancelled if regulations are flouted. And the Police Act would be amended to allow for freedom of assembly according to international norms, although street protests would still be outlawed. In the same breath, he said that new laws will be enacted to protect the peace, harmony and security of the country.Interestingly, Najib acknowledged in his address to the nation that was broadcast live on all local television stations that the move to increase civil liberties was “risky, but we are doing this for our survival.” And for good measure, he added “No individual will ever be detained simply due to political ideology”.

Ex-ISA detainee and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng called this “an epochal move” but cautioned that the federal government should not try to dress up the old laws in new security laws being proposed by Najib.

I find Najib’s announcements rather odd because they were made before television cameras to a studio audience of eight hundred and not in the hallowed halls of Parliament. It gives the impression that this is a public relations exercise and all we are going to see are merely the re-branding and re-packaging of these laws. From what I read, the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Police Act are not going to free us from the shackles of oppression because there are caveats in place. A rose by any other name is still a rose, isn’t it? Methinks the devil is in the details and we will just have to wait and see. Meanwhile, talk is cheap.

I cannot help but suspect that these announcements were made to fish for votes. It further demonstrates how desperate Najib is. Whatever the case may be, I wonder why he did what he did on the eve of Malaysia Day? It somehow stains this special day because it reminds Malaysians that in this day and age, a country that is purportedly a parliamentary democracy is still weighed down by a slew of draconian laws that control a population who have ceased to believe in the BN government.

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