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'NSC Act will give Najib arbitrary powers, bypass safeguards'
Published:  Jul 27, 2016 9:21 AM
Updated: 1:25 PM

Civil liberties advocates Lawyers for Liberty warned that the National Security Council Act (NSC) 2016 is nothing more than a redressing of the now repealed Internal Security Act (ISA) that will grant Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak arbitrary powers, and even bypass safeguards that existed in the old law.

The group pointed out that powers once embodied in the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to declare “security areas" under the ISA were now shifted to Prime Minister Naib Abdul Razak, removing royal oversight, once the act comes into force on Aug 1.

"He has also substantially broadened the scope of the special provisions relating to 'security areas' to cover instances that do not justify the involvement of the military or use of deadly force," LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said in a statement.

He said that the requirements to declare a “security area” under the ISA were much higher requiring public security to be threatened by a substantial body of persons causing a substantial body of citizens to fear organised violence.

But the threshold under the NSC Act seemed astonishingly low and ambiguously worded, thus open to abuse, he said.

He noted that the government has done away with the requirement for a substantial body of persons to cause a substantial number of citizens to fear organised violence, before a security area can be declared.

Paulsen warned that the new act was worded in such a way that it gave the prime minister the power to declare any area a “security area” when any person causes serious harm to the people, territories, economy, national key infrastructure or any other interests of the country.

“Due to the wide-ranging and ambiguous wordings of the NSC Act, it would seem that the prime minister may invoke the special provisions relating to 'security areas' to do almost anything.”

He urged the government to suspend the implementation of the NSC Act and to consult all stakeholders regarding the many concerns that have been raised.

"We further call for substantial amendments to be made to the NSC Act, so that national security is genuinely balanced with constitutional, democratic and human rights concerns, and institutional checks and balances," said Paulsen.

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