The Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) is a preventive detention law in force in Malaysia. Any person may be detained by the police for up to 60 days without trial for an act which allegedly prejudices the security of the country or any part thereof. After 60 days, one may be further detained for a period of two years each, to be approved by the Minister of Home Affairs, thus making indefinite detention without trial.
In 1989, the powers of the Minister under the legislation was made immune to judicial review by virtue of amendments to the Act. Now, only the courts are ‘allowed’ to examine and review technical matters pertaining to the ISA arrest.
Since 1960 when the Act was enacted, thousands of people including trade unionists,student leaders, labour activists, political activists,religious groups, academicians, NGO activists have been arrested under the ISA. Many political activists in the past have been detained for more than a decade.
The ISA has been consistently used against people who criticise the government and defend human rights. Known as the ‘white terror’, it has been the most feared and despised, yet convenient tool for the state to suppress opposition and open debate. The Act is an instrument maintained by the ruling government to control public life and civil society.
The ISA goes against the right of a person to defend himself in an open and fair trial. The person can be incarcerated up to 60 days of interrogation without access to lawyers.
The first 60 days
A person detained under the ISA during the first 60 days is held incommunicado, with no access to the outside world. Furthermore, lawyers and family members are not allowed access to the detainee during this initial period. Only after a two-year detention order is signed, the detainee is carted off to the Kamunting Detention Centre to serve his or her two-year term, in which family members are allowed to visit.
Torture goes concurrently with ISA detention. Former detainees have testified to being subjected to severe physical and psychological torture. This may include one or more of the following: physical assault, forced nudity, sleep deprivation, round-the-clock interrogation, death threats, threats of bodily harm to family members, including threats of rape and bodily harm to their children. Also, detainees are confined in individual and acutely small cells with no light and air, in what is believed to be secret holding cells. These interrogation techniques and acts of torture are designed to humiliate and frighten detainees into revealing their weaknesses and breaking down their defences.
Prolonged torture and deprivation have led to detainees signing state-manufactured ‘confessions’ under severe duress. During the first trial of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, police told the courts that the process of ‘extracting confessions’ under duress was called “turning over” and suggested it was a standard practice of the police.
Relevant sections of the legislation are as follows:
Section 73(1) Internal Security Act 1960:
“Any police officer may without warrant arrest and detain pending enquiries any person in respect of whom he has reason to believe-
- 1) that there are grounds which would justify his detention under section 8; and
- 2 )that he has acted or is about to act or is likely to act in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to maintenance of essential services therein or to the economic life thereof.”
Sect 8. Power to order detention or restriction of persons.
“(i) If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to the maintenance of essential services therein or the economic life thereof, he may make an order (hereinafter referred to as a detention order) directing that that person be detained for any period not exceeding two years.”
INTERNAL SECURITY ACT, 1960
An Act to provide for the internal security of Malaysia, preventive detention, the prevention of subversion, the suppression of organised violence against persons and property in specified areas of Malays
ia, and for matters incidental thereto. [West Malaysia – 1st August. 1960; East Malaysia – 16th September. 1963.]
WHEREAS action has been taken and further action is threatened by a substantial body of persons both inside and outside Malaysia-
- (1) to cause, and to cause a substantial number of citizens to fear, organized violence against persons and property; and
- (2) to procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of the lawful Government of Malaysia by law established;
AND WHEREAS the action taken and threatened is prejudicial to the security of Malaysia;
AND WHEREAS Parliament considers it necessary to stop or prevent that action;
We thought that Malaysia is a democratic country where each individual needs are taken care of and honoured. WELL we are absolutely WRONG!
However, this law exists in so many many countries in many different variation, in United Kingdom there is Terrorism Act 2000 and a similar act exist in USA. Everyday many people are held under these kinds of law which imprison for indefinite amount of time so something they may or may not be guilty of. The thing that saddens me even more is that the people in our government (ie all the ministers) are given the power by the ‘rakyat’. We voted them in, we gave them the power, we made them to be who they are and yet they continuously do whatever they wish. Clearly the Malaysian ‘rakyat’ have spoken out, I have seen posters, blogs and
website that called for the freedom of ISA detainees. IF ISA is
really necessary the please treat those people with some humanity, they are people and not animals. Finally to conclude this article I include a letter send to Pak Lah by K Kalaivaniy (mother of P Uthayakumar ):
YAB Dato Seri Abdullah Hj Ahmad Badawi,
Dear Mr Prime Minister,
I am the 67-year-old and proud mother of P Uthayakumar one of Hindraf leaders detained by your goodself under the Internal Security Act. I write as the mother of Uthayakumar and on behalf of all Malaysian mothers who have been deprived of the love, care and attention of their sons detained under the ISA.
Only a mother who had raised and nurtured her son would understand the torture of forcefully being separated from him. Like me, there are many other mothers in this country currently being denied to be freely with their sons. On behalf of them, I write to appeal to you as a father figure of this beautiful country to immediately release them.
No mother on earth would condone her son committing an unlawful act and going unpunished but no mother would be able to digest the fact that her son is held for his political beliefs without being charged with any offence.
Like my son, many sons are being held under the law for their political beliefs or held on mere suspicion and without proof that they have committed offences. I wish to state that, like me, many mothers are suffering every day thinking of the uncertainty and unjust punishment and torture their sons are going through.
Many mothers are older than me and their days may be numbered. Every other day in detention is an eternal punishment to the mothers meted out by the country. Dear Prime Minister, let not a single mother leave this earth not being able to cuddle and hug her son for one last time.
I beg you on behalf of all mothers – be he a JI suspect, Hindraf leader or anyone – no mother would want to leave this earthly life with the burden of not speaking to her son one final time. On behalf of all I pray to the Lord Al-mighty to give you the utmost wisdom to see this great unjust committed on our sons. I beg and appeal to you. Please release them and shut down the Kamunting detention camp.
This is a plea where we all should respect and join, let us be humans and free those ISA detainees. Think about the thousands of people world wide that have been held in similar situation. Their freedom and rights just taken from them just because they have a different political idea, or may be guilty of something or for just standing up against those who oppress them. I can’t begin to imagine the feeling of those people and how they survive in those horrible detention camps. Power hungry politicians abuse their power and detain people under ISA in the name of freedom, security and democracy, but they forget one thing people will always be people. Treat others with some humanity. Let us unite and speak up against those that oppress us. The ISA goes against HUMAN RIGHTS and the right of a person to DEFEND himself in an open and fair trial.