Preventive detention first became a element of Malaya in 1948 primarily to struggle against the armed uprising of the Malayan Communist Party. The 1948 ordinance was primarily made to counter acts of violence and, conceivably, preventive detention was meant to be short-term. In 1960 itself, the government passed the Internal Security Act under Article 149 of the Malaysian Constitution. Without charge or trial of any person in respect of whom the Home Minister was satisfied that such detention was necessary to prevent anyone who believe to be a threat to national security, prejudicial to the Maintenance of essential services and to the economic life. The ISA is one of the most controversial Acts enacted under Article 149 of the Malaysian Constitution. ISA detainees are typically held at the Kamunting Detention Center.
Torture is reportedly a major part of an ISA detainees daily life. Former detainees have testified to being subjected to severe physical and psychological torture that include one or more of the following: physical assault, forced nudity, sleep deprivation, round-the-clock interrogation, death threats, threats of bodily harm to family members, including threats of rape and bodily harm to their children. Also, detainees are confined in individual and acutely small cells with no light and air, in what is believed to be secret holding cells. These interrogation techniques and acts of torture are designed to humiliate and frighten detainees into revealing their weaknesses and breaking down their defenses.
Several opposition parties such as the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) have spoken out against the ISA. Many of them have leaders or prominent members who were held under the ISA, such as Muhammad Sabu of PAS, Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh and Lim Guan Eng of the DAP, and Anwar Ibrahim of the PKR.
A person detained under the ISA during the first 60 days is held no access to the outside world. If a two-year detention order is signed, the detainee is taken to the Kamunting Detention Centre to serve two-year term
What our former and current prime ministers defined ISA?
rally urging the government to abolish ISA/Suffering of detainees family members
- the purpose of the act as to "be used solely against the communists, I gave a solemn promise to Parliament and the nation that the immense powers given to the government under the ISA would never be used to stifle legitimate opposition and silence lawful dissent"
The third Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn
- stated at the same time that his administration had enforced the act only with a view to curbing communist activity, and not to repress "lawful political opposition and democratic citizen activity"
The fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
- went on the record in 1988 to state "If we want to save Malaysia and Umno, Dr Mahathir must be removed. He uses draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act to silence his critics." The year before, he had also stated "Laws such as the Internal Security Act have no place in modern Malaysia. It is a draconian and barbaric law."
-but in 2003 Prime Minister called the ISA "a necessary law," and argued "We have never misused the Internal Security Act. All those detained under the Internal Security Act are proven threats to society."
Initially, the stated purpose of the ISA was to defend communist activity in Malaysia during the Malayan Emergency. Since 1960 when the Act was enacted, thousands of people including trade unionists, student leaders, labour activists, political activists, religious groups, academicians, NGO activists have been arrested under the ISA. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi personally signed the detention order that allows the leaders of HINDRAF to be detained without trial for two years.