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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lawyer: Don't trust judges for your liberty

Even if new security laws replacing the Internal Security Act (ISA) provide for judicial review, it will be of little use as Malaysia's Judiciary has a "frightening record", says constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas.

"I would not trust the judges of any country in this world for my liberty. I trust the politicians a bit more because they have to answer to society once every five years. Judges never have to."

NONEBased on his experience, said Thomas (right), who has been in practice for 35 years, he doubted the Judiciary in Malaysia would uphold liberty if the government abused the security laws.

"I see no hope in judicial reviews. As a practicising lawyer, I judge the future by the past and present - and I'm afraid the track record is frightening. No thanks! Not the judges," he said at an forum on abolishing the ISA and Emergency Ordinance last night.

The other speakers were Sungei Siput MP Dr D Jeyakumar, Suaram director Kua Kia Soong and Abolish ISA Movement (GMI) chief Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh.

In announcing a number of law reforms on the night of Sept 15, including the repeal of the ISA, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had said the power to extend detention in the new laws that would come into place would be moved to the courts.

The real solution, Thomas said, was do to away with all detention-without-trial laws altogether, without any replacement.

"We don't need more laws. I keep telling people that Malaysia has wonderful laws. What we want is better enforcement.

"Parliamentarians all over the world say that the panacea for any disease is more laws, but sorry, that is not the way."

'Situation for security laws orchestrated'

Thomas added that in any society when there is a clash between security and civil liberties, the state and the individual, "the state and security always win".

NONEWhile the panellists were united against any form of subsitute laws to replace the ISA and other emergency laws, another, Kua, warned that the government might create a situation that would allow such laws to be pushed through.

To prove his point, Kua drew attention to the drafting of the ISA in 1960 as an instrument to combat communist insurgency amid the backdrop of a subsiding conflict.

"Despite the casualty rate during the Emergency dropping very drastically, the ISA was still passed. There was no justification for that."

Kua said the role of anti-ISA movements such as Suaram and GMI had yet to end and all must be united in opposing any law providing for detention without trial.

"It is upon us now to start a consensus to build up a momentum led by the GMI to prevent the government from orchestrating justification for new terrorism laws," he said.

Minister in Prime Minister Department Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz has said that even though the ISA would be repealed, its two replacements would still contain provisions for detention without trial.

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