KUALA LUMPUR: The Internal Security Act (ISA) has been instrumental in combating terrorism in Malaysia, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said.
He said the law has kept the nation secure from the threat of terrorism.
“There is a very strong raison d’etre for the Internal Security Act. Just look at Mumbai and you realise that we cannot take security lightly.
“The main reason why there have been no serious acts of terrorism in this country is because we have in place the ISA,” he said on the Riz Khan Show on Al-Jazeera last night.
Najib, who is also finance minister, acknowledged however that the government needed to look into some elements of the act that troubled the people.
“At the same time, what is important now is to realise that people are concerned about civil liberties… what is important is how you apply the ISA.
“I realise there are some controversies relating to how the act has been used lately, therefore, we intend to address them in future.”
The prime minister-in-waiting gave assurance that the nation’s security forces were adequately trained and equipped to face any threat to national security.
“They (security forces) are competent and well trained. So far, we have not encountered any serious form of terrorist attacks on Malaysia.”
Najib stressed that news reports claiming Malaysian links to the gunmen who terrorised Mumbai were “baseless and unsubstantiated”.
He also said the threat of extremist Islamic leanings in Ma-laysia was not serious, although he cautioned against being complacent.
“Generally speaking, the people are very moderate in the way they see Islam being applied in this country.
“But we have to be vigilant about it. There are few individuals who try to interpret Islam in an extreme and myopic way, which can mislead some young people.”
Najib reiterated that the government was committed towards reform and change, in line with the wishes of the people that were reflected in the results of the March 8 general election.
“I realise that there is a new Malaysia today, a Malaysia that has evolved, a Malaysian society that is more matured and sophisticated, demands openness and its concerns relating to human rights and civil liberties.
“I think as the government, we have to respond to this new Malaysia.”
Najib said reforms to the judiciary and Anti-Corruption Agency were clear messages to the people that the government was “listening to the electorate”.
He said while the government attends to the needs of the Malays and Bumiputeras who form the majority of its support base, it will also champion the rights of the non-Malays.
The recent allocation of RM50 million each to Chinese, Tamil, missionary and religious schools, apart from granting government scholarships to students who score nine As and above in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examinations regardless of race, are examples of the government’s new approach.
Najib said the view that Malaysian politics was being dominated by a proxy race was not a significant issue as the democratic process was alive and well in Umno.
He also welcomed second and third generation Malays who were coming to the fore as they wanted to participate in the democratic process of the party.
“This shows that Umno is a very open and democratic party,” he said when asked to comment on the heated contest between Khairy Jamaluddin, the son-in-law of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad, for the party’s Youth chief post.
On the nation’s economy, Najib said it had grown stronger and more resilient and was in a strong position to weather the current global crisis.
“We are in a strategic location as a gateway to China. We also have strong links with India and the Middle East. We are in a unique position to leverage on our links with various centres in this part of the world.”
To a question on his reservations regarding the media, Najib said he was more concerned with them “telling the truth”.
“Whether it be the mainstream media or the new media, it is important for them to tell the truth. If they tell lies, or half-truths or baseless allegations, they should be responsible for what they say or print.”
Source : New Straits Times