When do man-made laws outlive their shelf-lives?

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar assured Malaysians that no man-made laws, including the contentious ISA, are permanent as ‘the government would always look into amending laws in accordance with the demands of changes and time’.

However, he cautioned, before that (amendment and change) could happen, ‘the people should love their country by ensuring peace and security’.

He added that the government wanted to build a nation ‘where the people understand their responsibility towards each other and also the sensitivities of the various races’.

He lamented that ‘there were still people who played the race card and sensitive issues that could inflame emotions and eventually lead to public disorder’.

Point well taken. No Malaysians who love this country would want to see Malaysia being torn asunder by interethnic suspicion and hate. 

Indeed it appears that many Malaysians, particularly since the March 8, 2008 general election, have shown that they are more open to the idea of multiethnicity and non-ethnic politics as a way forward towards building a more united Malaysia.

In fact, there are concerned and patriotic Malaysians who are already pushing conscientiously for the idea of ‘Bangsa Malaysia’, indicating a willingness to transcend their respective ethnic identities for a larger and more inclusive notion of ‘Malaysian-ness’.

But, at the same time, it is also sadly true that there are indeed some people in our midst who have no compunction about mouthing publicly racist comments and flaunting racist behaviour to the extent of hurting the feelings of certain ethnic communities — and at the risk of sparking ethnic tension.

Such offensive thinking and behaviour, any right-thinking Malaysians would tell you, must be shown their proper place in a multiethnic and democratic society like ours. That is, the perpetrators must be made aware of their ‘evil’ ways (through civilised public discourses) and, if need be, be punished accordingly. But the ISA is certainly not a civilised way to ‘correct’ this kind of situation; there are other just laws that can deal with these seeming aberrations.

True, as the honorable minister observed, there are still people who play the ‘race card’ and sensitive issues, which are indeed dangerous in the context of a multiethnic and multireligious society like ours. This partly explains why many Malaysians voted in the recent general election against ethnic-based parties and politics that are divisive and perpetuate primordial ethnic sentiments and champion narrow communal cause to the point of promoting ethnocentricism and, worse, racism. Worse still, politics of race has been employed to advance certain narrow vested interests.

In other words, Malaysians in general have moved on and are in the process of discarding racist elements in their midst in a variety of ways. It seems to me there is no other viable way but to take an all-inclusive and all-Malaysian approach towards building a peaceful, progressive and harmonious nation.

Given this social context, we can safely say that Malaysians generally are willing to ‘understand their responsibility towards each other and also the sensitivities of the various races’.

And times have also changed so that undemocratic laws such as the ISA are now increasingly perceived by many Malaysians as irrelevant and anachronistic. But more importantly, many Malaysians have come to realise that the ISA is unjust and inhuman, as wives and families of ISA detainees and past detainees, among other concerned Malaysians, would attest to this.

Moreover, this is especially so as some Malaysians have developed in recent past the capacity and willingness to address and try to resolve contentious issues in a civilised and peaceful fashion, such as holding dialogues and engaging in intellectual exchanges.

Even if there are non-violent street protests that indicate differences of opinion in society over a particular issue, they must be seen in a larger context of democratic process. These peaceful demonstrations, therefore, do not warrant heavy-handed action of the state, including the use of tough laws (like the ISA).

To reiterate, this man-made ISA does not sit well with our fast changing social environment and the era of globalisation, especially if the law is targeted against peace-loving citizens who do not resort to violence, organised or otherwise, in their attempts to advance their ideas and ideals.


10 Responses to “When do man-made laws outlive their shelf-lives?”

  1. 1 ctchoolaw 21 September 2008 at 10:36 am


    Spot on analysis. Your analysis is cogent and compelling. Yours will add a substantial voice to the Anak Bangsa Malaysia viewpoint and, also add a quiet but significant weight to the argument against repressive laws.

  2. 2 Ravichandren 21 September 2008 at 11:22 am

    Repressive laws are designed to assist the ruling class in safeguarding the interests of capitalism. So far UMNO/BN has been using it to strengthen the rule of capitalism to oppress the working class and others in society. It would be necessary to fight to change these laws but it should go together with the need to transform the capitalist system that support and propagate these repressive laws. The democratic socialism that prioritizes the fundamental needs of working class and others in society would be the alternative.

  3. 3 Azimi 21 September 2008 at 11:52 am

    I hope the Home Minister knows what he’s talking about.
    He was not seen to chastise his colleague Ahmad Ismail but he was seen arresting Teresa Kok who’s hardly a threat to national security.
    If he wants to be believed he should put this Ahmad under ISA instead of letting him go on a roadshow which potentially could cause more damage to the already fragile race relationship.
    Most people believe this Ahmad fella deserves ALL the ISA he can get.

  4. 4 mustafakanuar 21 September 2008 at 12:04 pm


    I understand your concern. However, I would argue that the alleged racist remarks made by Ahmad Ismail (and his proposed roadshow) should not earn him an ISA detention. This is because the law is unjust as it will not provide an opportunity for him to defend himself in an open court of law. There are other laws that can be used against him.

  5. 5 Mag M 21 September 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Truly ISA must go. I do not want to see any race in ISA at all. It is so unfair coz that person does not have a chance at all to defend himself. How can such laws exit? We want peace but through other more humane ways.

  6. 6 wandererAUS 21 September 2008 at 2:12 pm

    If the Home Minister believes in peace and harmony, among the various races in this nation, all racists should be put behind bars. Has he done so? Unfortunately, he does not do what he preaches. It is pure hypocrisy of the highest order.
    Recent events, arresting innocent citizens namely, Tan, Teresa and RPK, justify my statement. The
    multi-racial parties are moving in the direction, the racial parties of
    UMNO, MCA and MIC belong to the 20th century…still playing the race card to clinch on to power…

  7. 7 Patricia 21 September 2008 at 5:24 pm

    I think the Home Minister is preaching to the converted! We all already know what he’s saying; we’ve beem trying to do just that!

    But guess who isn’t?

    And I agree with you about that Ahmad Ismail fler. I don’t like what he said, and I don’t like the idea of him going on a road show to ‘explain’ it to anyone. BUT, no ISA for him. Nor for anyone else. Surely there is a law, already in place, that can be used to get this political opportunist out of the picture?

    To me, it looks like the ISA is too convenient: it is invoked not for justice, but to silence someone. An excellent example being RPK.

    There are too many people under the ISA already. The decent thing to do would be to either free them unconditionally, or charge them in court for their ‘crimes’. It is unconscionable that they be left there indefinitely.

  8. 8 Samuel Goh Kim Eng 21 September 2008 at 7:00 pm

    On this International Peace Day
    Let us all without further delay
    Find solutions to make peace stay
    Otherwise there’ll be too high a price to pay

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng – 210908
    Sun. 21st Sept. 2008.

  9. 9 Samuel Goh Kim Eng 21 September 2008 at 7:01 pm

    From greater awareness to actual action
    Let’s heed the cry and call to the nation
    To scrap whatever acts of the wrong notion
    So that mankind will only keep the right portion

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng – 210908
    Sun. 21st Sept. 2008

  10. 10 Pinoy 21 September 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Amen! Keep on blogging,bro!

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