With NSC Act, our freedoms now at Najib's mercy
Today, the controversial National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016 comes into force, bringing Malaysia to the brink of dictatorship.
For imposing an unconstitutional bill, and for legislating it in haste, Pakatan Harapan strongly condemns the adoption of the NSC Act by the federal government.
Since the day the NSC Bill was introduced in parliament on Dec 1, 2015, Malaysians from all walks of life have joined hands to convince the government against adopting such a draconian measure.
Legislators hailing from every single opposition party voted against the bill; civil society embarked on the #TakNakDiktator campaign to mobilise public pressure against the authorities; all three Bars of Malaysia - the Malaysian Bar, the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak and the Sabah Law Association jointly asserted this law as a “serious threat to our system of constitutional government”.
Despite vehement protest from the electorate, the Act has been forced through our legislative system in the absence of royal assent from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and with objection from the Conference of Rulers, no less.
Firstly, the new NSC Act violates the basic structure of the Malaysian Constitution and recklessly encroaches on the prerogatives and vestigial powers of the Malay Rulers.
The power of the prime minister to declare “security areas” effectively resurrects provisions of the Internal Security Act (ISA) - repealed in 2012 - and usurps the powers belonging exclusively to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution to declare an emergency.
Secondly, the new National Security Council, whose chairman is none other than the Prime Minister, has the power to issue directives to any government entity, including all ministries and agencies, the armed forces, and the Royal Malaysian Police.
The Malaysian Constitution wisely separates the military chain of command from the Prime Minister’s control.
Represented in the Armed Forces Council are the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and his fellow royals in the Conference of Rulers instead.
The authoritarian powers under the NSC is too much for any one man to hold. This will bring ruin upon Malaysia.
Lastly, for centralising military, policing and emergency powers under the Prime Minister, the NSC Act blurs the inviolable lines that separates the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government from each other.
To the detriment of the Malaysian population, our freedom of movement and other fundamental civil liberties are now at the mercy of just one man - Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
Subject to his whims and fancies, Najib can now declare any area a “security area” for six months at a time, a period of which he is authorised to renew indefinitely.
The NSC Act empowers security force with arbitrary powers of violence and deadly force, warrantless arrest, search and seizure, and imposition of curfews.
Despite disenfranchising Malaysians to such new lows, the NSC Act also decrees a ban that disallows any action, suit or proceedings to be brought against the NSC Council.
Najib has no shred of moral integrity that justifies his implementation of this Act amidst the tempest of international controversy over 1MDB.
When there is nowhere left to run, a desperate man who has already stolen so much will not be able to resist the temptation to steal our democracy as well.
With the NSC Act safely within his grip, Najib will have absolute and unfettered powers to save himself from any political crisis.
The NSC Council is granted with powers to “formulate policies and strategic measures” on “socio-political stability”.
In the event that he loses the next general election, Najib now has the ability to choose the ‘nuclear option’ for Malaysian democracy.
He can use the NSC Act to establish a de facto dictatorship and blow apart our precious constitutional institutions.
Already, Malaysia has slid from being a parliamentary democracy towards electoral authoritarianism after past prime ministers concentrated more powers in the executive in order to save themselves from one political crisis after another.
But, the NSC Act represents an unabashed quantum leap towards a dictatorship and a military-police state.
To stick true to the tenets of democracy, the NSC Act must be cold-storaged without delay.
The long-ignored request by the Conference of Rulers to review the Act’s controversial provisions must be honoured.
The constitutional separation of military power from the office of the prime minister must be upheld in order for Malaysian democracy to be safeguarded for generations to come.
The PAKATAN HARAPAN PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL consists of PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, DAP acting chairperson Tan Kok Wai and Parti Amanah president Mohamad Sabu.