MP SPEAKS I refer to the speech by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak this morning in which he defended the Security Offences ( Special Measures) Act 2012( Sosma), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota) and the National Security Council Act 2016 (NSC) as necessary for the “safety and security of Malaysians” in view of “a spate of terror-related incidents around the world “.
Sosma and Pota allow long-term detention without trial, whereas the NSC gives wide emergency-type powers to the prime minister.
These kind of powers are excessive and unnecessary for the purposes of combating terrorism. They negate the people’s fundamental rights and pose a constant threat to civil liberties. The very existence and toleration of such powers in our society is a ‘slippery slope’ that may lead to further erosion of democratic freedoms in Malaysia.
Significantly, countries which are facing much greater terrorist threats than Malaysia, do not have laws that allow preventive detention or emergency powers. This includes the US, UK, Australia, Canada and EU nations. None of the foregoing countries have resorted to harsh laws like Sosma, Pota or NSC. Yet these countries have suffered serious terrorist incidents and loss of life on their soil.
Why is it that those countries do not resort to such laws? Firstly, because in those countries there is a deep respect and regard for civil liberties. Secondly, because such laws are not necessary or effective in curbing terrorism. What will curb terrorism is better police and intelligence work and close cooperation with other nations engaged in the fight against terrorism both regionally and globally.
Thus, Najib has no justification whatsoever for imposing such laws on Malaysians. All these laws were imposed over the last few years of his premiership, which has seen an unprecedented erosion of fundamental liberties and standards of accountability.
Disturbingly, the passing of such laws has gone hand in hand with the huge increase of investigations and prosecutions under the Sedition Act, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Act and the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA). This steady erosion of civil liberties appears to have become an unmistakable pattern and trend of Najib’s premiership, particularly since the 13th general election in which the BN lost the popular vote.
Najib must stop defending the indefensible; Sosma, Pota and NSC must be repealed and be replaced with anti-terrorism laws which are truly effective and respect civil liberties.
N SURENDRAN is Member of Parliament for Padang Serai and founder of Lawyers for Liberty.