Kuala Lumpur, April 10 (IANS) The new Malaysian government wants to relax the Internal Security Act (ISA) which is perceived as stringent and draconian by the political opposition and human rights bodies, but does not want jeopardise the country’s security by doing so.
On the day he was sworn in as the prime minister last week, Najib Tun Razak ordered the release of 13 ISA detainees, including an Indian national who had forged travel documents, and two activists of a Hindu organisation jailed for staging a protest rally in November 2007.
Razak said he was doing that ‘in a spirit of reconciliation’ and rejected accusations that he was doing it as ‘a gimmick’.
The move was accompanied by a change in the home portfolio. High profile Syed Hamid Albar, perceived as a hardliner, has been dropped from the cabinet formed Thursday.
New Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said his ‘first task’ would be to discuss with Razak and review the ISA under which several people perceived as threatening the country’s security have been detained, The Star newspaper said.
He said on being appointed to the post that he would ‘take note of the people’s views’ about the ISA and see what ‘adjustments’ could be done, without undermining the country’s security.
‘If bold changes or approaches can be done without jeopardising the country’s security, I don’t see why the people’s aspirations cannot be fulfilled,’ The Star newspaper quoted him as saying Friday.
While Ganabatirau and S. Kengadharan of the Hindu rights Action Force (Hindraf) were released last week, three more organisers of the November 2007 rally – M. Manoharan, Vasanth Kumar and P. Uthayakumar – are in detention.
The rally sought to speak for Malaysia’s two-million Tamil Hindus by raising their grievances about perceived discrimination in jobs and education and destruction of Hindu shrines.
Several Islamist militants are also held under the ISA, six of whom were released last week.