The de facto law minister also says there is no guarantee that the new law will not be misused as well but urges the people to use the ballot box to register their protest if this happens.
KUALA LUMPUR: The Internal Security Act was at times used to crack down on political dissidents, admitted Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz.
The de facto law minister told the Dewan Rakyat this in his winding-up speech on the Securities Offences (Special Measures) Bill 2012.
“The then deputy prime minister Tun Abdul Razak had promised in 1960 that the ISA will only be used against the communists but it was not the case all the time,” he added.
Abdul Razak, who eventually became the second prime minister of Malaysia, is the father of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
Nazri said this was the reason why the government, under Najib, had qualified the new Bill by inserting a provision that nobody could be detained for their political beliefs.
In the past, the government had denied using the controversial security law to throw its critics behind bars, claiming that arrests were done to uphold national security.
Yesterday, Najib tabled the Securities Offences Bill for a second reading and promised that the government would do away with the ISA once the new law is gazetted.
The new Bill included a clause that would disallow the authorities from detaining anyone based on their political beliefs.
However, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim had pointed out that the new Bill would allow the police to detain an individual, even after being acquitted by the court, following an oral application by the DPP until the detainee exhausted the appeal process.
‘Nobody can give a guarantee’
Nazri told the opposition backbenchers that although he understood their concerns that the new law might be abused like the ISA, he said nobody in the government could provide a guarantee.
“It all depends on the chief executive (prime minister) at that point of time. If he disregards the rule of law, it will be difficult for us,” said the Padang Rengas MP.
And that was why, Nazri added, the government inserted various safeguards in the new Bill such as the right to seek judicial review for detention and the right to seek a lawyer within 48 hours of the arrest.
“But in the end, the people must act if the law is misused. Use the ballot box,” he added.
Since its inception in the 1960, Nazri said a total of 10,883 people had been detained under the ISA.
“Currently, there are 22 people detained under the preventive law,” he added.