[The Malaysian Insider] Lawmakers set up anti-ISA parliamentary caucus

17 09 2008

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 ~ About 50 lawmakers, including Senator Datuk Zaid Ibrahim who resigned from the Cabinet Monday, convened in Parliament House this afternoon to form a parliamentary caucus to free detained Seputeh MP Teresa Kok and to ultimately abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA).

The reason for the set-up, as DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang pointed out, was the ISA detention of an elected lawmaker “denied the rights of Malaysians through an MP who can voice their thoughts freely” not because people think “an MP is special”.

Kuala Krai MP Dr Hatta Ramli said that Kok’s detention prevented her from performing her duties as an elected representative of the people as she will not be able to attend the next parliamentary session to debate the 2009 Budget proposal which reconvenes on Oct 13 “unless they release her now”.

The newly-formed caucus wants to have a meeting with the deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar to seek a clear explanation for Kok’s “unjustified” detention under the ISA. It also seeks the tabling of an emergency motion to discuss the recent arrests under the ISA when Parliament resumes its session.

A total of 17 MPs, representing the three component parties making up the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition, were inducted into the caucus committee. Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak), Kamaruddin Jaafar (Pas-Tumpat) and Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) share the seat for co-chair.

Earlier, Zaid’s presence was greeted with much applause by the 48 opposition coalition MPs in attendance. While not an elected member of the House of Representatives, he was the sole representative from the ruling government at the DAP-initiated caucus, despite inivitations being sent out to all parliamentarians to act in support of a member of their fraternity.

The former minister in charge of legal affairs had attracted much criticism from among his own Cabinet colleagues and party members in Umno when he submitted his resignation letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi over the recent spate of ISA arrests.

“I’m here today because I’m very concerned. My position has always been that it can only be used for terrorism and for people who want to overthrow the government by force.

“I feel parliamentarians must speak up,” he said and explained his reason for breaking away from his party’s stand.

“People say we have peace and stability in Malaysia because of the ISA. I say rubbish!” he said to rousing cheers. “We have peace and stability in Malaysia in spite of the ISA.”

Released from the shackles of his Cabinet office, Zaid denounced the government’s misuse of the ISA for political reasons, a point wholeheartedly supported by the other speakers which included the MPs for Bagan Lim Guan Eng, Bukit Gelugor”s Karpal Singh, Bandar Tun Razak”s Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, Subang”s R. Sivarasa and Kuala Krai”s Dr Hatta Ramli.

However, the opposition MPs disagreed with Zaid’s notion that the ISA held any relevance in today’s “civilised” Malaysia, and that there were enough provisions to combat terrorism and people who allegedly plot the overthrow of the’ government.

Guan Eng, son of Lim Kit Siang, highlighted how the “ISA is a weapon of fear and must be removed if the country is to progress”.

“That is why it is up to us, the new members of Parliament, to cut out this cancer of society,” he concluded in his speech.

This article is taken from “The Malaysian Insider“.


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