Thursday, September 15, 2011

ISA: Announcement vs. Process of Parliament

It is utmost welcome to hear the long waited “ANNOUNCEMENT” of abolishing the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) by the PM not many hours ago, particularly during the eve of Malaysia Day. Surely with that announcement, many believe that ISA has been ABOLISHED or REPEALED.

My friend asked me what my view is. I told her it is mere “ANNOUNCEMENT”. The PM did not say when the effective date is. Of course he would not be able to say so. As I view it, the ISA is still currently remaining in force and has not been ABOLISHED or REPEALED. Mere “ANNOUNCEMENT” does not repeal or abolish an act of Parliament. The ANNOUNCEMENT ought to be viewed with utmost caution and ought not to be viewed as repealing the ISA. At best it is mere an INTENTION to repeal the ISA.

Any act of Parliament like the ISA, it has to go through the proper and legally binding process to actually repealed or abolished. The process to repeal any act of Parliament, as I understand it, is akin to its “creation”. There has to be a Bill being drafted and passed through the process of Parliament to actually repeal or abolish the ISA. ISA does not repeal by mere announcement or correspondences. I am not aware of such act being drafted, what more passed through the process of Parliament to repeal the ISA. As I said earlier, the process to repeal the ISA is akin to its “creation”. The process of Parliament is this.

In Malaysia, there are the lower house known as Dewan Rakyat or House of Representatives and the upper house known as Dewan Negara or Senate. The Parliament will exercise its power to make laws by passing of Bills in both houses. A Bill may originate in either of the House. However, there is one exception. Subject to Article 67 of the Federal Constitution, the "Money Bill" must originate in the House of Representatives and can only be introduced by a minister.

The House, which a Bill is originated shall send it to the other House once the Bill has been passed. After the other House passed the Bill, it must be presented to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for His Royal Highness' assent pursuant to Article 66(3) of the Federal Constitution.

A Bill goes through several stages of "Reading" in both the Houses. At the 1st Reading stage, only the long title will be read. This is a formality when the Bill is first introduced to the House. The most important stage is 2nd Reading. The contents of the Bill are debated at length and discussed by all members of the House. After that Bill goes through a Committee stage; normally the Committee of the whole House as opposed to special select committees. Special technical details of the Bill may be discussed at this stage. Finally, the Bill is returned to the House for its 3rd Reading. This is again a mere formality.

Pursuant to Article 66(4) of the Federal Constitution, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong must assent to the Bill by causing the Public Seal to be affixed thereto. This must be done within 30 days from the date a Bill is being presented to His Royal Highness. The Bill will become law at the expiration of the 30 days period specified in the like manner as if His Royal Highness had assented thereto, should His Royal Highness, for whatever reason, fails to give assent to the Bill within the specified period. 

A Bill assented by His Royal Highness shall become Law. However, no laws shall come into force until it has been gazetted or published pursuant to Article 66(5) of the Federal Constitution

That being the process, there must be a Bill to repeal the ISA originated from either of the House and thereafter going through the above process of Parliament. Once such Bill passed through all the above process of Parliament, it will become an act or law of Parliament having the full force and effect of repealing the ISA. Only then we can safely say that the ISA has been REPEALED or ABOLISHED.

Having said that and as the matter stands, the ISA is still currently remain in full force.

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