Saturday, August 24, 2019

History of the ISA

In 1948 the British colonial authorities enacted a State of Emergency in the British colony of Malaya as a response to the perceived threat by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and their armed guerrilla force. This was lifted in 1960, three years after independence, with the substantive defeat of the communist forces. However, in the same year the Malaysian government enacted the ISA. Unlike the 1948 Emergency Regulations, which was a temporary measure to deal with extraordinary circumstances, the ISA was made permanent in law.

The ISA was initially justified by the authorities as necessary in order to counter what remained of the communist threat within the country. In the 1970s the communist threat again surfaced as justification, though this time in the context of war in mainland Southeast Asia. Other justifications for the existence of the ISA have been the maintenance of inter-ethnic harmony and economic stability. After 11 September 2001 the main justification became ‘terrorism.’

The ISA has been used in a politically-motivated and selective manner to target peaceful members of civil society that the government perceives to be a threat. More than 4,000 people have been detained under the ISA since its inception in the 1960s.

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