Even the United States and the United Kingdom, which had prided themselves as the bastions for democracy and human rights, have used the September 11 events to resort to draconian legislation to the extent that the Malaysian government could preen itself on having the foresight to have repressive laws like the Internal Security Act and even to claim that Malaysia must continue to lead the world in having some of the most draconian laws in the world by further tightening up existing repressive laws.
Such trends could be detected from the recent pronouncements of the Barisan Nasional leaders, like the statement by the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim that the US Patriot Act 2001 was "more “controversial and extreme” compared to the Internal Security Act or the announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on the proposed amendment of existing security laws "to deal with modern-day terrorism"
Although the US Patriot Act 2001 represented grave violation of civil
liberties in the United States, it is nonetheless still not as bad as the
Internal Security Act (ISA) in Malaysia, for the following reasons:
Although the new US Patriot Act 2001 is most reprehensible in violating basic civil liberties on the ground of the fight against terrorism, it is pure intellectual dishonesty for anyone to claim that the new American security laws are more controversial and extreme as compared to Malaysia's draconian laws like the ISA.
It is double intellectual dishonesty to take one step further to claim that the Sept. 11 events justify Malaysia tightening up its various repressive legislation, which are already among the most draconian in the world.!
It is sad that at this crucial and critical time for democracy and human rights, when the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) should be the most vigilant of all organisations in the country to ensure that the government does not use the September 11 events to justify a greater clamp down on democracy and human rights, we have voices from the Suhakam proposing that democracy and human rights should take a backseat in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The time has come for all politicians and MPs, regardless of political party, to unite to protect and promote human rights as essential components for Malaysia's development in the 21st century and reject the notion that they are a luxury which the Asian countries cannot afford in a trade-off between development and security.
On the occasion of the 2001 World Human Rights Day, there should be a nation-wide movement and campaign in Malaysia to protect and promote democracy and human rights to oppose any attempt to further clamp down on democracy and human rights.