KUALA LUMPUR, 25 June 2009: The Home Ministry may table amendments to the Internal Security Act (ISA) in the next parliamentary sitting that will include a re-examination of the length of detention and the appointment of independent investigators.
Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said that among others, the ministry would re-examine the ISA’s 60-day detention period.
“In the UK, to address issues of terrorism, they have put in place a detention period of 28 days. We can look into the propriety of this [for Malaysia],” he told a press conference in Parliament after answering questions in the Dewan Rakyat about the ISA.
Hishammuddin also revealed that the ministry would limit the number of extension orders, which allow detainees to be held indefinitely for two-year terms at the minister’s discretion.
He added that apart from the appointment of independent investigation officers, the ministry would also review the ISA’s definition of “threats to national security and public peace”.
“Maybe when the ISA was first enacted in the 1960s, it was the communists. But today, it is militant networks and extremist movements,” Hishammuddin said.
“That is why the [list of definitions] must be included in our review process,” he added, citing the case of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) leader Mas Selamat Kastari, who was captured in Johor in April.
“I hope to table [the ISA amendment] in the next session,” Hishammuddin added, referring to the 19 Oct to 15 Dec 2009 Parliamentary sitting.
Reviewing the ISA was one of the moves promised by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his inaugural speech on 3 April.
Hishammuddin said the Home Ministry’s efforts to amend the ISA was part of a concerted effort to update all 33 laws that empower the minister.
“We want to look at all these laws, as a whole,” Hishammuddin said, adding that they required an overhaul to address contemporary challenges to national security.
Hishammuddin stressed that this process would involve all stakeholders.
“I’ve already formed committees of all the relevant agencies in the ministry. We will engage all the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are interested,” Hishammuddin said, adding that many of the ideas about reforming the ISA “came from the public”.
However, when asked what steps the ministry was taking to engage the public in the review process, Hishammuddin answered that he had to “sort out” the ministry first.
“In the last two and a half months, I have gathered all the legal minds in the Home Ministry to [study this reform effort],” Hishammuddin said.
“We have to set our house in order, before we meet the public,” he added.
Hishammuddin denied that he had a “government knows best” mindset when it came to issues such as reform of the ISA, as alleged by the opposition.
During his presentation about ISA reform in Parliament, Hishammuddin was heckled by several opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), including former ISA detainee Khalid Samad (Shah Alam-PAS).
Another MP, Dr Lo’ Lo’ Mohd Ghazali (Titiwangsa-PAS) pointed out that, if there was sufficient evidence to prove wrongdoing, there was no reason why ISA detainees could not be charged in court.
Rebutting, Hishammuddin said that detainees could not be charged in court to “protect the safety of witnesses in these cases”.
“Lives are at stake,” he stressed.
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