ISA rots the human spirit

It is a glaring prolonged aberration of reason that this country still has an incarceration system that involves no opportunity for the accused to defend themselves in a courtroom.

That there are those in this country who can stand up and suggest the usefulness of such a law is incomprehensible not to mention morally reprehensible.

Rawls theory of justice asks us to examine moral decisions under the veil of ignorance, that is to make laws and decide punishments without knowing if you are the accused or the victim. Is the law universal?

My Rawlsian question to every member in Badawi’s cabinet, if your child is arrested under the ISA, would you still support the ISA?

Would it be a good time for you to allude to the various complexities of running a democracy and how in order to protect the good people of Malaysia, you have to put someone in prison indefinitely?

In the 1960s the ANC in South Africa were commercial terrorists, and most people saw them as a threat. A very different western world could not see a way to support black rights rather than the precious rights of the white ruling minority in that country. But the long detention of Nelson Mandela, swayed international perception to the ANC.

To them it was difficult to understand the moral strength of the white rulers in imprisoning people indefinitely. And even in South Africa there was a trial. In Malaysia you don’t.

My favourite guy Mahathir could defend the ISA with a straight face, then again he could defend every wrong under the sun with a straight face. I fear we might go back to the time of Operasi Lalang in 1987 if we are not careful.

Today, 74 people are in Kamunting, because the fine people of the federal prosecution office did not manage to prosecute them. Some of them there for more than 5 years.

The whole thing is a truism. Of course if someone is a threat, a credible threat then there would be enough evidence, stuff pouring out of files gathered. File a case.

There is the argument that -especially in the case of potential terrorists- the evidence might have been accrued through contacts and sources that might jeopardise other prosecutions or ongoing investigations. To begin with we are not the only country with that problem and there are legal means to provide higher secrecy in the trial.

All that does not compromise a higher principle, the right for all who are accused to defend themselves against their accusers.

It is an irreducible principle, for if we give an inch up, then we open up the possibility of so many abuses.

And they have in this country.

Similar intolerances reign from granddaddy ISA, like the emergency ordinance and serial remand. Today most Malaysians think the police can just arrest you, if they want to. Most of us do.

That is why so many are petrified of police officers no matter what slogan they take on.

Is this the Malaysia we all want to live in? Once ISA falls, I believe every other oppressive law in this country will wither in record time.

They are gathering in Stadium Melawati, Shah Alam tomorrow night ( 28 June 2008) to show solidarity against ISA. That can be a start.

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