Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My ISA is Mightier Than Your Pen

Events in the last few weeks suggest that the aggressors are not the people but politicians with access to the instruments of power and coercion. The action taken against RPK, Teresa Kok, Tan Hoon Cheng, Kickdafella and Wee Meng Chee seems to suggest that the ISA is mightier than pen.

Yet, the government - with its access to instruments of power to detain and punish - is accusing these individuals of inciting threats and undermining public security. These individuals are not inherent or real threats to the society. The government is the prime threat.

This is proven by the arbitrary use of ISA to detain dissents and political opponents. It is obvious that the government cannot be urged to use civilised channels to rebut and engage the people. When challenged, it will quickly resort to using draconian legislation and coercive power (eg. the police) to finish off the challenger very quickly. With absolute ministerial power, the civil courts are helpless or unwilling to go to the extent of questioning the absolute discretion of the minister.

When a person can be easily detained without access to fair trial, how can he/she be a threat to the society? Can the government detain a real terrorist that easily? It would easily take years of intelligence before the government, with assistance of foreign governments, can uncover any terrorist cell in the country.

When a democratically elected government can no longer use democratic measures to address dissent or political opponents, it is deemed to have failed to function as an administration. If it continues to dominate power, it is nothing more but an autocratic government.

NST columnist Zainul Arifin says "THE proposed Race Relations Act, one would assume, is an attempt to get us to watch what we say or do, and not to get fellow Malaysians of different races all riled up.
An act suggests regulatory and prosecutorial functions, with elements of penalty or punishment to curb our excesses, or when we get all hot and bothered, talking about race."

"The intention of legislating such an act is obviously good; no one in his right mind would not want better race relations. But isn't policing race relations as tricky as trying to instil fashion sense? Can we make racism a crime? Can we jail someone for making racist statements?"

As a remedy to better race relations, he suggests "We need a set of policies aimed at making us understand and appreciate each other more." "It was the schools then, and it should be the schools to put us back on track. It was the schools then that taught us comradeship and fed us the formula for good race relations."

Then, Zainul goes off the track. His suggestion sounds rather familiar, "We now have national schools, Chinese and Tamil schools, religious schools, private schools, international schools, and for some people, home schooling. For most of the school types, enrolments are predominantly race-based. It cannot be denied that Chinese, Tamil and religious schools are not helping the national unity agenda.

"Similarly, the creeping Malay-ness in national schools is also working against the cause. Now I believe if we, and that includes our politicians and policymakers, are really serious about the unity and race relations thing -- we must be, since we now want to legislate against racism -- we have to look at ways to make our national schools better, a school for all."

Zainul, Zainul...I urge you to say it. The main problem is race-based politics and political parties. Vernacular schools do not restrict admission from other races. There are almost 60,000 bumiputra students in Chinese vernacular schools. This number is probably growing given the pathetic state of national schools although these schools are fully funded by the Ministry of Education.

Race based politics must be dismantled if we want to deracialise our public policies. Race Relations Act runs contrary to our objective of creating a truly Bangsa Malaysia if this act is used as a deterrent and is punitive in nature. We already have many legislation to address racism if only persecution is not selective. Leaders of UMNO seem to be immune to laws and regulations making them the new class of untouchables under both previous Dr M leadership and current Abdullah administration.

In the case of RPK, Teresa Kok and Tan Hoon Cheng, the ISA is used to protect the new class of untouchables against their opponents.

What we need is a free press and it must start with journalists who are not afraid to tell the truth. Tan Hoon Cheng can be a role model to many journalists.

Who is the aggressor?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Spot On!