Tuesday, October 4, 2011
A New Promise of Freedom in Malaysia
The Prime Minister and the papers have said it bold and clear that the ISA would be repealed. Thus the thorn in the neck of everyone who believes in basic human freedom unless limited by the process of law, can now jump up and down with joy. More, the Prime Minister announced that those detained under the ISA would be released immediately after the ISA is repealed. Some 150 detainees will be released and some 200 warrant of arrest will be withdrawn.
Though two new Acts will be instituted to ensure that national security and political stability would not be compromised, they would be subject to the normal legal processes - no detention without being charged in court.
That the government is willing to curtail its existing power to accommodate the wishes of the people (the rakyat), is a noble gesture indeed. I suppose many political activists who have this far thrived on castigating the government because of the ISA will now be without a 'bone to pick" as the saying goes. But I'm sure they will find something else to hold against the government, perhaps the question of extending help to the poor and disadvantaged groups, not automatically giving scholarships to students with outstanding examination results (although they are the sons and daughters of well-to-do people) in favor of students from impoverished families, extending loans and assistance to bumiputera businessmen who are just beginning to learn the ropes, and perhaps the popular salvo of criticisms on the the special position of the Malays in their own country.
The opposition must of course continue to criticize the government or else lose their popularity. But what all Malaysians hope for is that the criticisms will be on obvious and palpable error of judgement or choice of alternatives which clearly affects the lives of the rakyat. The opposition would be in a position to disclose what are swept under the carpet but only only in as far as how they affect the decisions taken and the policies adopted. Disclosing personal matters for the purpose of character assassination or
lowering the dignity of a man is of course a contemptuous thing, be it done between political enemies or party members competing for a position in the party. Much of the running feuds in the papers seem to involve this kind of issue to the neglect of more important policy matters.
The rakyat now waits for the revelation of the 2012 budget. This would unquestionably be one that presages the election and therefore would project many of the government's future policies and lines of action. If, after the repeal of the ISA, the government can address some of the real outstanding issues that face the public now, it will stand a very good chance of retaining power and perhaps improving its majority in Parliament. Some of these involve the sharp rise in the cost of living and inflation. Even products usually considered as plentiful in Malaysia seem to have made a jump in their prices. Why oh why? Is the mechanism for regulating supply and demand defective? Without some improvement in this area any increase in salary and allowance of the civil servants will not mean much to them.
But if the 2012 budget fails to address the concerns that are uppermost in the minds of the public, the impact of the abolition of ISA might be watered down. What more if the new Acts impose some stringent rules that reduce personal freedom again. Let's wait and see.