Legality, a tiresome reliance

N Surendran

Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

In criticising the views of Salbiah Ahmad, MD Mahmud suggests that the police have every right to break up public assemblies, whether peaceful or not, simply because they are illegal ('One-sided argument against ISA', July 18).

This tiresome reliance upon 'legality' as an answer to all criticism of police action, reflects the poverty of ideas of those who argue on the illiberal side of the question. They take no notice of the cynical manner in which harsh laws like the Police Act are used to stifle our democratic freedoms, but babble on in a vague and tedious manner about 'legality'.

Applying some strange brand of confused logic, MD Mahmud relies on the mere fact that the Constitution "does not prohibit restrictions on [fundamental] freedoms", as justification for keeping the ISA on the statute books. The Constitution also allows for the proclamation of a state of Emergency, but would it make any sense if the Ruler were to make such a proclamation for no other reason than because the Constitution allows it?

The writer then admonishes Salbiah Ahmad for casting aspersions on the legality of police actions. Can the writer please enlighten us as to when it is that citizens lose their right to question the propriety of police action? Was it after or before the former police chief hit the former DPM?

His suggestion that there are adequate safeguards against "unlawful detention under the ISA" is absolutely hilarious, and exposes his complete ignorance of the state of the law in this area. Brave judges sometimes make up for the defects of the law, but this does not make the law any less harsh or inadequate.

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