LONDON, May 23 — Twice-detained without charge or trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA), controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin said yesterday that the law had outlived its usefulness.
Raja Petra addresses a crowd of over 300 at the BPP Law School in London, May 22, 2010. — Picture by Danny Lim
Describing how it was tabled by then-deputy prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein in 1960 to combat communist terrorists (CT), he added that it was now simply a political tool used by the Barisan Nasional government.
Raja Petra, who writes for the Malaysia Today web portal, insisted that the idea that the ISA was a relic of the British colonial government was a myth.
“The ruling party asks why we complain when it is the British who introduced the ISA. But it was tabled in 1960 and Malaya gained independence in 1957,” the blogger, known widely by his initials RPK, told a packed hall at the BPP Law School.
In his first public appearance since his self-imposed exile over a year ago, he described how even opposition MPs then had backed the bill after assurances from Abdul Razak, who was also home minister, that it would only be used to combat the communist insurgency.
“But after the 1989 treaty in Haadyai, the communist party no longer exists. The emergency situation no longer exists. But we are still officially under the emergency because the ISA is an emergency law and the government can still use it even though it violates the constitution,” he said, referring to clauses which provide for fair trials to Malaysian citizens.
Arguing that the ISA was now only used to silence dissent and keep secrets, he quoted then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed as stating that the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001 would not have happened if the US had a law like the ISA as it would have prevented such a crime.
“You use it to detain people before they commit a crime. We detain them while they are thinking about it. So it prevents you from thinking.
“In the past, the ISA stopped you from shooting and bombing. Today, it stops you from having thoughts. So you have a nation of robots,” he added.
He described how when he talked to many Malaysians, they would say that the government was “terrible” but when asked to vote for the opposition, they would reply, “Nanti kena ISA (we’ll be arrested under ISA).”
The fugitive blogger, who absconded from sedition and criminal defamation trials as well as a government appeal against his ISA release, which he claims were not being heard fairly, said the ISA had effectively planted “the politics of fear” in Malaysians.
He added that even the courts in Malaysia had from time to time declared that the ISA had outlived its usefulness, including his successful writ of habeas corpus against his own detention in 2001.
Raja Petra further described how during the 60-day ISA detention, one would be made to confess to crimes to demonstrate co-operation and then undergo a process of torture to “turn you over” and “abandon your cause.”
“We confessed to everything — including the Kennedy assassination,” he joked, referring to the murder of the former US president John F. Kennedy in 1963.
He said that some of those who were converted would become Trojan horses, making specific mention of former PKR MP Zulkifli Noordin, who until he was recently sacked, was often at odds with other Pakatan Rakyat leaders.
“They are put there to create controversy and remain as thorns in the flesh of the opposition,” he said.
Hosted by the Solicitors’ International Human Rights Group (SIHRG), Raja Petra was greeted by a crowd of over 300 Malaysians, some of whom had to stand for the duration of the two-hour talk and question-and-answer session.