Friday, April 9, 2010

Possibility of Home Minister and IGP subject to arrest under the ISA

The absolute powers of the Home Ministry calls into question the possibility of the Home Minister himself or the Inspector General of Police being subjected to arrest under ISA when clear proof of national security being compromised by these officials are revealed.

There are enough reasons to suspect the possibility for the Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan to be arrested under the Internal Security Act for compromising national security.

In response to the allegation that ex-Israeli intelligence personnel, under the guise of IT personnel has infiltrated the police headquarters communication room and gained access to servers, the IGP feigned ignorance of the Israeli involvement, stating that proof must be presented before action can be taken.

However, in a Star report dated 5 August 2008, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said police were aware of the involvement of the Israelis in their communications systems upgrading project, contradicting his recent statement. Statements were also forthcoming from the Police Director of Logistics, a Special Branch Director, and Johari Ismail, a journalist confirming the involvement of Israeli intelligence in Bukit Aman.

In October 2008, opposition stalwart Lim Kit Siang had raised the same issue in the House but was brushed aside by the Home Minister then.

An air of secrecy revolving around the whole episode persists. Apart from the above comments, no response were forthcoming from either the Home Minister or Musa Hassan despite being brought up in parliament.

The MACC is also investigating how the little-known IT company, AsiaSoft Sdn Bhd with little experience became the local partner in the RM1bil project to upgrade the Royal Malaysian Police's communication systems from analogue-based to digital. Despite almost 2 years into the project, no action has been made with regards to the breach of security elements in awarding of the contract.

The previous Home Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar was a fierce proponent of the ISA. Under his stewardship, Teresa Kok, member of parliament for Seputeh, and Tan Hoon Cheng, a journalist for Sin Chew Jit Poh were arrested under the ISA for allegedly insulting Islam and inciting hatred respectively although no evidence were produced.

The police security breach is much harder to conceal as it clearly involves national security.

Any police officer may arrest without warrant anyone suspected of being prejudicial to the security of Malaysia, with powers for the Home Ministry to decide on the order of detention. As the ISA was frequently invoked for lesser causes, the current conundrum may call into question the subjective use of the law.

The absolute powers of the Home Ministry also calls into question the possibility of the Home Minister himself or the IGP being subjected to arrest under ISA.

As detention orders are decided by the Home Minister, the ISA does not address the possibility that the Home Minister, who if involved in the fiasco, be subjected to arrest. Malaysian laws invest and centralize powers to the Ministers, enabling indiscreet decisions to be made with limited judicial intervention.

Political will to change the draconian law also remains weak, particularly among government officials within the ruling coalition.

The fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, went on the record in 1988 to state "If we want to save Malaysia and UMNO, Dr Mahathir (then Prime Minister) must be removed. He uses draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act to silence his critics." The year before, he had also stated "Laws such as the Internal Security Act have no place in modern Malaysia. It is a draconian and barbaric law."

In 2003 when he became Prime Minister, however, Abdullah called the ISA "a necessary law," and argued "We have never misused the Internal Security Act. All those detained under the Internal Security Act are proven threats to society."

The question remains whether the Malaysian Government is willing to use the law against high ranking officials, including the IGP and Home Minister when the threat to national security is real.

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