Mahathir did not abolish ISA because authorities may not want to work with him

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Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today revealed he wanted to abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA) when he became prime minister in 1981 but didn’t do so because authorities may not want to work with him.

In an interview with Astro Awani, the 96-year-old leader said he was advised by many that the ISA was needed for national security.

“When I became the prime minister in 1981, I let go about 20 detainees who were jailed without trial because I didn’t agree with the idea of detention without trial.

“I wanted to abolish suppressive laws – ISA for example – but many told me ISA was still needed, just don’t abuse the power.


“I realised at that time that my position depended on security matters, and I may not be able to get full cooperation from the authorities if I revoked ISA,” he said.

Despite wanting to abolish ISA, many political activists, student leaders and political opponents were jailed under the ISA during Dr Mahathir’s tenure as prime minister.

Dr Mahathir’s former right-hand man, Anwar Ibrahim, was incarcerated under the law twice.

The ISA was created to curb communism and insurgency in 1960.

The most notable incident was during the Operasi Lalang in 1987 and the Reformasi protests in 1999.

The ISA was abolished during Najib Razak’s tenure as prime minister in 2011. The Pekan MP replaced it with the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act in 2012.

Calls to shut down Sosma gained momentum during the Pakatan Harapan administration. However, the government led by Dr Mahathir did not manage to repeal the law during its 22 months in power. – TMI