PETALING JAYA, MALAYSIA: Ministers and party leaders within Barisan Nasional have lashed out at Friday's ISA arrests.
Some have gone as far as to call for the Act to be comprehensively reviewed, while others maintained that the draconian law is still relevant but should never be abused or used against civilians.
MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said MCA felt that if the ISA was really necessary, it must only be invoked in the most extreme cases.
Otherwise, he said, the Act would be a threat to the rule of law and the fundamental liberties as enshrined in the Constitution.
"In fact, even the drafter of the ISA, the late Prof R.H. Hickling, had said the Act was only intended against communist insurgents and those bent on armed struggle.
"If at all national security is threatened, there must be strong evidence to show that. Otherwise, such detainees should be charged in an ordinary court of law and there are sufficient laws for this purpose," he said.
MCA vice-president Datuk Ong Tee Keat said he felt that the Act should be "comprehensively reviewed".
"We need to review this Act comprehensively to see its relevance today," he said.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Samad said it was necessary to retain the Act but it should be used wisely.
He said he had never asked for it to be abolished or reviewed as it was still needed here.
"It is still necessary but it should be used with care."
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said the arrests of reporter Tan Hoon Cheng, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok and blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin had put the Government in a bad light.
"For any arrest there must be a reason and it must be clearly explained to the public," he said.
MCA vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn criticised Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar's explanation on the detention of Tan, who has since been released.
He said Syed Hamid's explanation " that her arrest under the ISA was because her life was under threat " was "totally unacceptable."
"It was a feeble attempt to justify the use of the ISA on Tan. By detaining her under the ISA, police have turned her into a victim of circumstances," Dr Fong wrote in his blog www.fongchanonn.com.my yesterday.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai called for the ISA to be reviewed so that it would not be abused by any quarters to undermine national unity, security and stability.
Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said Gerakan had called for the amendment of the ISA but not its abolition.
He said the Act should be used only when dealing with national security and not against journalists carrying out their duties.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said the Government should be sensitive to the feelings of the people and not be blind to the fact that a significant proportion of the rakyat abhor the ISA and would prefer it not to be used.
"Every time somebody is arrested under the ISA, it gives rise to a perception that the Government is doing it because it is not able to charge and convict the person under existing laws," he said.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said some aspects of the ISA ought to be subjected to intermittent review but its function to prevent occurrences that divide the community should be respected.