The National Security Council (NSC) Act, which comes into force today, will only empower the authorities to “trample” on human rights and act with impunity, Amnesty International (AI) says.
“With this new law, the government now has spurned checks and assumed potentially abusive powers,” said AI’s Southeast Asia and the Pacific deputy director Josef Benedict in a statement today.
The new law, he added, would grant Malaysian authorities the power to carry out “warrantless arrests, search and seize property, and impose curfews at will”.
Citing Section 18 of the NSC Act, Benedict said it allows the prime minister to arbitrarily designate any area in the country a “security area,” if he deems it a potential source of “harm”.
“There is good reason to fear that the Act will be yet another tool in the hands of the government to crack down on peaceful protests under the guise of national security,” he said.
The special status given to “security areas” could also worsen the country’s track record of custodial deaths and police brutality, he added.
Benedict pointed out how the government, under Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, has often invoked claims of protecting national security to choke peaceful dissent.
“The National Security Act 2016 is merely the latest in a series of laws that pay no heed to the human rights to a fair trial, freedom of movement, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Malaysia.
“The Najib government is increasingly resorting to repressive new laws that are said to protect national security but in practice imperil human rights,” he said, citing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) as well as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma).
Despite protests by opposition lawmakers and even disagreement by several BN lawmakers, the NSC Act was passed by both houses of Parliament in December last year.
Critics have expressed concern that the wide powers granted to Najib may be abused for purposes other than security matters.