'Security' act targets scholars

December 23, 2005

Higher education unions meeting in Melbourne this month expressed concern over anti-terrorism laws in the UK, Canada, Australia and the US

While Australia, Britain and Canada have recently enacted terror legislation or are about to do so, one speaker at the Education International conference in Melbourne has spent his entire academic life under Malaysia's Internal Security Act.

Rosli Mahat, president of the University of Malaya Academic Staff Union, said the Act was introduced during Britain's occupation of Malaya and during a communist uprising. After independence, the Government retained the Act while the communist threat remained - and then did not rescind it.

The Act has now been in force for 50 years.

Under the ISA, Dr Mahat said, a person could be detained for 60 days "for investigatory purposes". Detention can be extended to two years and, potentially, indefinitely.

"Syed Husin Ali, a professor of sociology at the University of Malaya and now deputy president of the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat, was accused of using classes as platforms for anti-government views," Dr Mahat said.

"His wife was pregnant when he was arrested. It was eight years before he saw his child. He was never charged, never tried and never given an explanation."

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