02 August 2009
The ISA in Malaysia -- Protests, Tear Gas, and Water Cannons
The Internal Security Act, or ISA, is a law that allows police in Malaysia to detain people without trial in certain circumstances. The primary concern for most is that the ISA does not recognize some basic human rights with respect to the idea of a right to a speedy and fair trial. The ISA is designed, according to its supporters, to ensure that Malaysia's domestic security is protected from all threats. In essence, the ISA gives the authorities the right to undertake pre-emptive or preventive detention.
As this as a backdrop, some 15,000 Malaysians seeking to have the ISA removed from the statute books took to the streets (photo courtesy of Reuters). If I was Malaysian, and perhaps even if I wasn't but just there, I would have taken to the streets too. Human rights are human rights. These basic human rights, no matter what the former Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahatir, says, are not based on western or eastern / Asian values. Human rights are human values, simple.
In Kuala Lumpur the 5,000 police on hand were seemingly outnumbered by protesters. Nevertheless, police had at their disposal water cannons and tear gas, both of which they were prepared to use, and did so.
At least 175 people have been arrested in this heavy-handed assault on a peaceful demonstration. According to Anwar Ibrahim, the former Deputy Prime Minister and one-time jail inmate, the police action was not only unwarranted but unnecessarily brutal.
The current Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has called the protest unnecessary as he has already agreed to review the ISA. However, it would seem that at least 15,000 Malaysians do not believe him and are prepared to make their lack of faith in the PM known.