The prime minister says maintaining the ISA would only help those detained garner more support.
He told civil servants at a dialogue with them that the controversial law which allows detention without trial was not “helping” Barisan Nasional politically but gave its opponents more edge instead.
“We abolished ISA because it was not politically beneficial for us… you only enhance their (opponents’) political career by detaining them under the ISA,” he said, adding that this does not change Putrajaya’s zero-tolerance towards terrorism.
The repeal of the ISA was part of a slew of political reforms announced by Najib on the eve of Malaysia Day last year amid speculation that he would call for general election earlier this year.
Observers said the move was clearly intended to boost his reformist credentials and woo the large pool of young fence-sitters, especially the more exposed and sceptical middle class.
But his image took a dent after the opposition claimed that the new law – Security Offences (Special Measures) Act – that replaced the British-inherited ISA was crafted in a way that gave Putrajaya more-or-less similar power to quell opposition.
Pakatan Rakyat also took the Najib government to task after it was seen “bulldozing” the new law in a move it claimed proved the prime minister’s disinterest in improving civil liberties.
His political reforms also took a beating from the far right within his own party. It also drew criticism from influential former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad who was instrumental in putting Najib’s predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, out of office.
But Najib insisted that his political reforms were needed to keep BN’s grip on federal power.
This was repeated today when he told the civil servants on “the necessity to adapt to changing times to remain relevant”, adding that BN was a government that “responds to the the wish of the people”.