Between National Security and Public Order, We Malaysians Get Trampled

I know, I know, I sound like a cross between a  “tree-hugging hippie crap” my friend IZ used to describe, and an American ACLU-type.

But that’s the nice thing about free flow of information. You get to read what other people think. The Industrial Revolution about 200 years ago resulted in so much exchange of ideas that it had a profound effect on society as a whole.

Why? Because knowledge was suddenly available to many, and inventors were followed up by innovators, improvement upon improvement took place and the modern age was ushered in with modern conveniences and in many ways, modern thought.

Modern norms brought out women to work and today, women are an integral part of any nation’s economy. Even in the societies largely “protective” of its womenfolk.

Civilisation is a dynamic thing. It has to go on. Hey, it is part of mankind’s evolution as a race. For civilisation to move forward, it has to have ideas. Ideas have to be communicated. Communication has to be free if an idea is to bloom all the way to fruition.

Discourse has to be free. Just think…if Isaac Newton was strung up the nearest apple tree for heresy when he propounded his theory about universal gravitation…where would we be today?

The point of my meandering writing so far is, when you curb free speech, society as a whole will suffer. We Malaysians would do well to remember that.

In the wake of 9-11, many countries fearful of the Twin Towers’ scale of horrifying terror acts, have instituted tough preventive laws and measures to ensure this senseless carnage doesn’t happen again.

This has led to many instances of injustice as we all have seen, from the shameful Guantanamo Bay chronicles to the enaction of tough laws like POTA in India, Prevention of Terrorism Act in Britain among others.

To be fair, India has been a target of terror attacks too long for its government to just sit back and watch, while Britain had its own terror bombings and attacks thanks to the friendly folks from IRA.

Malaysia and Singapore however, have been content to rely on the colonial relics that are the Internal Security Act and Seditions Act to take care of these fears. In Malaysia’s case it has been used more to curb any deviation from government-instituted normal behaviour than to incarcerate actual terrorist types.

Which is why over the years we Malaysians have seen such a motley crew of characters as guests in that government-run retreat that is Kamunting, under ISA, which allows for detention without trial.

 For instance we had Hilmy Mohd Noor who was ISA-ed because he wanted to renounce Islam. We had the current Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng as imprisoned under Sedition Act for not knowing the difference between “imprisoned” and “detained”.

There were the Jemaah Islamiah member, Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (now who calls their own group “militant”, this name is a no-brainer lemme tell you).

There is alleged Al-Qaeda middleman BSA Tahir, apparently still inside. Not to mention the Hindraf Five, the current posterboys of government persecution. For a more comprehensive list, go here.

You see, I’m sure there are existing laws to charge people who have flouted our laws in court and punish them with sentences if found guilty.

But both the Mahathir and Abdullah administrations have found it more expedient to incarcerate people without the benefit of a trial.

Abdullah could have set so many things right when he had his overwhelming mandate in the 2004 elections. But he did little things of significance. His omissions more than actions have led to the rising disenchantment among the electorate.

This weak leader might as well be the catalyst of destruction for UMNO and indeed the so-called multiracial coalition that is Barisan Nasional.

Which may be good news for Malaysians and indeed Bumiputeras, who hope for a better tomorrow. However, it is imperative that we, the rakyat,  keep a sharp lookout. Let us not forget that some of the election pledges of Pakatan Rakyat coalition looks like a drunkard’s promise. Let’s keep them on a tighter leash.

Otherwise, three years down the line you will think of this line…

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss.


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