Sunday 14 September 2008

Shooting your own foot and then stuffing it in your own mouth

Very confusing la! Who ordered Friday's ISA arrests? Was it Pak Lah or Syed Hamid or was it actually the Police acting on their own? The ongoing comedy or study in illogics, whichever your fancy continues to amaze the whole nation. Who is running the country!?!

I do not think a government servant in the Police would dare make a unilateral decision without consulting his political bosses on something that could embarass the latter. Embarassing it has turned out to be at a time when solid decision making is crucial from the government. For the government, is this turning out to be a case of "shooting one's own foot" and then "stuffing the foot into one's own mouth"?

Whoever ordered it, our de facto law minister, Zaid Ibrahim points his finger directly at his own boss. This was from Malaysiakini today:

Law minister threatens to quit over ISA
Beh Lih Yi Sep 14, 08 2:42pm

De facto Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim today threatened to resign if the government continued to use the Internal Security Act, which he described as 'unjust'.

The outspoken Barisan Nasional politician also called for the immediate release of DAP MP Teresa Kok and controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin who were held under the security law which provides for detention without trial.

"We have a government that commits to laws and reforms, we can't be using old-style politics or resort to creating fear. We have laws and they (the detainees) can be charged in court.

"I am trying to meet with Prime Minister (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) this week to convey to him my position. If (he considers) my position untenable, I will leave," he told Malaysiakini in a telephone interview from Kota Baru, Kelantan.The minister, who is a lawyer by training, held a press conference in Kota Baru earlier, where he also spoke on the same matter.

Use ISA to fight terror

Zaid, who is the minister in the Prime Minister's Department overseeing legal matters, said his position on the ISA is that the law should only be used to curb terrorism, the reason why it was enacted.

"The problem with the ISA now is that it is used against certain people, it is a very unjust law," he added.

The ISA is a relic from the British which used the law to battle the communist insurgency. The Act earned notoriety after it was invoked by the government to stifle dissent, leading many to call for its abolition.

However, the government has continued to defend the relevance of the law on the grounds of national security.

Commenting further, Zaid said: "I am very sad that people like Teresa (right), who I know personally, can be seen as a threat. I can't see how a journalist doing her duty or even Raja Petra can be seen as a national threat.

"If their statements upset certain people, let the police investigate," the minister said, adding that he did not see the need for the government to use such a "strong-arm tactic."

Zaid, who is the former Kota Baru MP, was made a senator and named as minister in charge of legal affairs during the cabinet reshuffle by premier Abdullah in March. His appointment was lauded by many quarters, especially within the legal fraternity, as it was seen as a gesture by the prime minister to honour his pledge for judiciary reforms.

'A setback to judiciary reforms'

However, Zaid lamented that the latest ISA arrests dealt a blow to his six-month-long task of trying to regenerate the judiciary.

In relation to the concept of collective responsibility, the minister acknowledged that his views on certain matters do not go down well with his cabinet colleagues.

"I don't want to make it difficult for him (Abdullah). If my views are inconsistent or unsuitable (to that of the cabinet's), I can leave the government."

"It is a setback (on my work). The government wanted to change certain things otherwise they don't need me (to be in the cabinet)," he said.

Friday's ISA crackdown began with Raja Petra, who has targeted government figures on his website Malaysia Today. He was detained at 1.10pm.

Tan Hoon Cheng, a journalist for the Chinese language Sin Chew Daily, was later arrested at about 8.30pm.

She was detained in connection with her report regarding the derogatory remarks made by an Umno leader against the Chinese community which led to a national uproar.

Close to midnight, DAP MP and Selangor senior state exco Teresa Kok was detained outside her condominium.

The arrests elicited a round of strong protests from all quarters, including those within the BN component parties.

Journalist Tan was released yesterday after being held for less than 24 hours and Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar explained that her detention was "to ensure her safety."

And This was in the Malaysian Insider:

Law Minister Zaid says ISA wrongly used
By Leslie Lau
Consulting News Editor

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 - De facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim broke ranks with the government today, and criticised the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA).

At least one other Cabinet member from the MCA has also called for the ISA to be replaced.
Zaid said the ISA should only be used against terrorists or against those who are trying to topple the government by force.

The minister said the legislation, which provides for detention without trial, should not be used against "civilians."

His comments, made at a press conference at his home in Kota Baru, today comes amid widespread criticism of the three recent arrests made under the ISA.

On Friday, the police detained Sin Chew Daily reporter Tan Hoon Cheng, Seputeh MP and Selangor state executive councillor Teresa Kok and blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin.

Tan has since been released following string protests and representations made on her behalf by Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders, including some from Umno.

Leaders from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance have also criticised the use of the ISA by the police, and have accused the BN government of using the arrests to head off possibility of the opposition seizing power next week.

But the criticisms of the ISA appear to have found a voice within BN.

Zaid was not the only minister who spoke out against the ISA today, amid mounting public pressure for some sort of review of the ISA.

Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai today proposed replacing the ISA with a Race Relations Act.

MCA vice-president Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn has also called for the ISA to be either reviewed or abolished.

The police made the arrests last Friday, sparking fears of widespread detentions, to quell what the authorities believe was mounting racial tensions.

This followed weeks of open disputes between the non-Malay and Malay parties within the ruling BN coalition over the controversial remarks of Penang Umno warlord Datuk Ahmad Ismail.

Zaid said today that he would seek a meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi for a "frank discussion" about the issue.

"I know I am breaking rank here," he told reporters.

"I am prepared for the consequences. If I am to resign I will do so."

Zaid pointed out that he was not trying to be a troublemaker, but he would always be a vocal critic of the ISA.

Writing in his weekly column today, The Star's Wong Chun Wai described the ISA as a draconian and archaic law.

"It shouldn't be used even against Ahmad," Wong wrote. "As this deprives him of the right to defend himself in open courts."