NSC Act 2016 brings back provisions of the repealed ISA 1960

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MP SPEAKS I refer to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's statement yesterday, July 27, in which he dismissed critics of the controversial National Security Council Act 2016 as 'politically motivated fearmongers'.

This is to trivialise and disregard nationwide concern and alarm over the wide and excessive powers given to the prime minister and the government through the NSC Act.

In a rare occurrence, even the Conference of Rulers expressed concern by publicly calling upon the government to 'refine' the bill before it was passed in Parliament.

There is real substance in the criticism of the NSC Act; it must not be brushed off in this manner by Najib.

The Act gives the PM emergency-like powers and allows arbitrary search, arrest and seizures of property within any area declared by the PM as a 'security area'.

Until now, Najib has been unable to explain the necessity for this new law. What internal or external threat does Malaysia suddenly face that justifies such a drastic curtailment of the people's fundamental liberties?

The PM conjured up the threat of IS and terrorism in his statement. But existing laws, such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota) give the authorities comprehensive and drastic powers to deal with such threats, including the power to detain without trial.

Concerned Malaysians baffled and worried

The NSC Act is thus a superfluous, yet dangerous piece of legislation. Its sudden appearance this year has baffled and worried concerned Malaysians and has attracted negative publicity for Malaysia abroad.

A crucial fact is that Part III of the repealed Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) had similar provisions as the NSC in empowering the government on the proclamation of security areas.

Yet, under Section 47(1) of the ISA, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was given the power to proclaim a security area, whereas under the NSC Act, the prime minister personally is granted that power.

The conditions to be fulfilled before the declaration of a security area could be made under the old ISA were also much stricter as compared to the vaguely and widely worded provisions of the NSC Act.

There is a reason why only the Agong has the power to declare a security area under the repealed ISA or to proclaim an emergency under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution. It is to prevent potential abuse of executive powers by any elected government and to safeguard the liberties of the people.

Why have these well-established procedures and constitutional safeguards been side-stepped in this new NSC law?

Najib and his government must uphold the rule of law and the spirit and integrity of the Federal Constitution by scrapping the NSC Act 2016 in the next session of Parliament.

N SURENDRAN is the Member of Parliament for Padang Serai.

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