The surprise news yesterday was that Malaysia is going to abolish the deeply unpopular Internal Security Act (ISA). The security law was a remnant of colonial times that allow the government to detent people without trial and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib
Razak announced that Malaysia will be repelling the law and replacing it 2 new anti-terrorism laws.
Less than a day after the news broke and there are already people in the Singapore blogshere who are saying that Singapore should follow Malaysia’s example and get rid of our own ISA. Frankly, I am for getting rid of the ISA but I also think a lot of people are jumping the gun here.
First off, let’s get this straight. PM Najib is not getting rid of the ISA out of the goodness of his heart, his commitment to freedom or his opposition to the ISA; he is getting rid of the law because he need the votes! Try as they might, PM Najib's National Front coalition has been unable to regain support they lost in the 2008 general polls when the government lost more than one-third of Parliament's seats to the opposition. A series of missteps since then (the crazy sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar
Ibrahim, the arrest of more than 1,600 demonstrators during the march on July 9 etc) has made the political landscape even more difficult for the ruling coalition.
Second and most importantly; we do not know anything about the 2 new anti-terrorism laws that will be replacing the ISA. Currently all we know is that they will NOT be called the ISA but outside that it is a big blank. For all we know, the new laws could be worse than the ISA.
In Singapore, the ISA is also very unpopular but till we get more information of what Malaysia is doing, let’s just wait before we call for our government to follow the Malaysian example. Let see if the Malaysian example is one that’s worth following first.