Highlights from Aliran Monthly
http://www.malaysia.net/aliran/

The Evil of ISA: Banish it from our midst

by Lim Guan Eng

Fourteen years ago, I was detained under the ISA for being a threat to national security. The only threat I could see then was the threat to Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s position as UMNO President that came from Tengku Razaleigh.

There is a sense of deja vu with the current ISA arrests of reformist opposition politicians, the latest count being 10 and, we are warned, not ended yet. As always, the flimsy excuse of maintaining public order, security and ‘national interest’ at all costs is trotted out. Never mind how ridiculous it is. It is used over and over again for as long as those in power unscrupulously cling to their positions while corruption runs riot in the country.

It is preposterous that the government and the police would have us believe that the country would descend into chaos if even one individual is allowed to remain free. Maybe they want to put into practice what Hitler’s Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, once boasted: ‘Tell a big enough lie often enough and people will believe it’s true.’ Can this be the aim of what might unfold as another the ‘full application’ of the ISA.

The ISA is a pernicious piece of legislation that celebrates falsehoods and lies. Those who use the ISA make no effort to establish truth, uphold justice or observe an individual’s inherent right to dignity and respect. The whole purpose of the 60-day interrogation period is ‘turning over’ the detainees to justify their own arrests without trial by the authorities.

While I was in detention, I was asked to lie over the television that the Prime Minister had acted correctly in arresting me. I told the police that I had no acting skills. If I had, I could have been a rich and famous movie star instead of being a persecuted, penniless democratic activist.

To repay my recalcitrance, the Special Branch inflict upon me some preliminary punishment. I was denied sleep for 48 hours. I was placed in a high-backed chair with a bright light shining in my face, while my interrogators who worked 24-hours shifts endlessly shouted into my ears.

This torment was only reduced when my health broke down from such physical stress, and I endured high fever alone in my cell. Perhaps fearful that I would die in detention, my interrogators lessened the intensity of interrogation.

I believe that similar attempts at ‘turning over’ are being conducted on the present ISA detainees. My heart reaches out to them for what they have to endure. We will have to wait to find out if indeed they are not brutalised, as promised by Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

Such promises, even when they come from as high up as the Minister of Home Affairs, cannot be taken at face value. But if the detainees are actually spared brutal treatment and ‘black eyes’ it will be because public outrage and adverse international reactions to high-profile cases of beatings, such as the brutal assault on former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, may cause the police to be more cautious towards detained activists.

Nevertheless, the physical and mental abuses have become a fact of life for ISA detainees. From experience I can say that it is difficult for a detainee to fight not only just the interrogators but also his or her overwhelming sense of loneliness, abandonment, fear, and worry for loved ones. Detainees are so often cruelly placed in solitary confinement for long periods and cut off from civilization and all contact with normalcy.

The ISA is Evil, and contrary to Truth, Religion and Morality. The weapons detainees have are their faith, resilience, and conviction that theirs is a struggle for truth, freedom and justice. Above all, theirs is the faith that God looks after those who strive for His cause.

It is simply this faith that will allow them to prevail, to pass the long lonely nights, and the terrible solitude of life in detention without trial. From this springs a resilience that will allow them to outlast their interrogators even if the latter work round the clock to break their spirit. It is the strength from the Divine Being that will save them from being entrapped in any web of deceit woven by the Special Branch.

To deny the oppressors their main purpose – which is to extract confessions to justify their oppression of the detainees – is the final and sweetest victory.

Let me say to the families of the ISA detainees: I salute your courage and loyalty in these trying times. You have my prayers and support. I believe that your husbands, sons and brothers will return safely to your arms with their heads held high, and with their honour and dignity intact.

As Malaysians, we should do more than pray and offer support to the ISA detainees. We must let the Barisan Nasional government know in clear and uncertain terms that all ISA detainees must be set free immediately and the ISA must be abolished. Let us join efforts with all concerned human rights groups, political parties and individuals to free our country and future generations of Malaysians from this evil in our midst.ourteen years ago, I was detained under the ISA for being a threat to national security. The only threat I could see then was the threat to Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s position as UMNO President that came from Tengku Razaleigh.

There is a sense of deja vu with the current ISA arrests of reformist opposition politicians, the latest count being 10 and, we are warned, not ended yet. As always, the flimsy excuse of maintaining public order, security and ‘national interest’ at all costs is trotted out. Never mind how ridiculous it is. It is used over and over again for as long as those in power unscrupulously cling to their positions while corruption runs riot in the country.

It is preposterous that the government and the police would have us believe that the country would descend into chaos if even one individual is allowed to remain free. Maybe they want to put into practice what Hitler’s Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, once boasted: ‘Tell a big enough lie often enough and people will believe it’s true.’ Can this be the aim of what might unfold as another the ‘full application’ of the ISA.

The ISA is a pernicious piece of legislation that celebrates falsehoods and lies. Those who use the ISA make no effort to establish truth, uphold justice or observe an individual’s inherent right to dignity and respect. The whole purpose of the 60-day interrogation period is ‘turning over’ the detainees to justify their own arrests without trial by the authorities.

While I was in detention, I was asked to lie over the television that the Prime Minister had acted correctly in arresting me. I told the police that I had no acting skills. If I had, I could have been a rich and famous movie star instead of being a persecuted, penniless democratic activist.

To repay my recalcitrance, the Special Branch inflict upon me some preliminary punishment. I was denied sleep for 48 hours. I was placed in a high-backed chair with a bright light shining in my face, while my interrogators who worked 24-hours shifts endlessly shouted into my ears.

This torment was only reduced when my health broke down from such physical stress, and I endured high fever alone in my cell. Perhaps fearful that I would die in detention, my interrogators lessened the intensity of interrogation.

I believe that similar attempts at ‘turning over’ are being conducted on the present ISA detainees. My heart reaches out to them for what they have to endure. We will have to wait to find out if indeed they are not brutalised, as promised by Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

Such promises, even when they come from as high up as the Minister of Home Affairs, cannot be taken at face value. But if the detainees are actually spared brutal treatment and ‘black eyes’ it will be because public outrage and adverse international reactions to high-profile cases of beatings, such as the brutal assault on former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, may cause the police to be more cautious towards detained activists.

Nevertheless, the physical and mental abuses have become a fact of life for ISA detainees. From experience I can say that it is difficult for a detainee to fight not only just the interrogators but also his or her overwhelming sense of loneliness, abandonment, fear, and worry for loved ones. Detainees are so often cruelly placed in solitary confinement for long periods and cut off from civilization and all contact with normalcy.

The ISA is Evil, and contrary to Truth, Religion and Morality. The weapons detainees have are their faith, resilience, and conviction that theirs is  a struggle for truth, freedom and justice. Above all, theirs is the faith that God looks after those who strive for His cause.

It is simply this faith that will allow them to prevail, to pass the long lonely nights, and the terrible solitude of life in detention without trial. From this springs a resilience that will allow them to outlast their interrogators even if the latter work round the clock to break their spirit. It is the strength from the Divine Being that will save them from being entrapped in any web of deceit woven by the Special Branch.

To deny the oppressors their main purpose – which is to extract confessions to justify their oppression of the detainees – is the final and sweetest victory.

Let me say to the families of the ISA detainees: I salute your courage and loyalty in these trying times. You have my prayers and support. I believe that your husbands, sons and brothers will return safely to your arms with their heads held high, and with their honour and dignity intact.

As Malaysians, we should do more than pray and offer support to the ISA detainees. We must let the Barisan Nasional government know in clear and uncertain terms that all ISA detainees must be set free immediately and the ISA must be abolished. Let us join efforts with all concerned human rights groups, political parties and individuals to free our country and future generations of Malaysians from this evil in our midst.

Lim Guan Eng is Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and former Member of Parliament. He was among the first to be detained under Operasi Lalang in 1987 and the last to be released.

Jumlah pembaca:orang