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Zahid: Sosma abolition to signal ISA’s return?

Published:  |  Modified:

Opposition leader Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has questioned whether the supposed plan to abolish the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 would pave way for the Internal Security Act (ISA) to be reinstated.

His statement came following media reports last night that mistakenly quoted Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad saying that Sosma would be abolished.

Zahid said Sosma was meant to help maintain public order and has more safeguards than the ISA it replaced.

“Compared to ISA that he (Mahathir) had used that involved detention without trial, Sosma detainees cannot be handled willy-nilly.

“Instead, there are provisions requiring hearings to be held at the High Court. ISA allows for (detention) without trial for two years whereas detention under Sosma needs to be heard within 28 days.

“Umno wishes to question the logic of this abolition in terms of maintaining public order, whereas certain parties are already challenging the Malay royal institutions and pitting racial groups against one another ever since Pakatan Harapan took power.

“The abolition of Sosma would open more opportunities to certain parties to engage in racial and religious provocation through various social media and online channels,” he said in a statement today.

Zahid warned that the abolition of Sosma and other security laws could lead to chaos.

“Or, perhaps Mahathir felt that Sosma and other anti-terror laws enacted by the previous administration is ‘not strong enough’ and he felt the need to have ‘stronger’ laws to suppress the criticism against him, even as he claims to be open to criticism.

“Does this mean that ISA would be reinstated? We shall see,” he said.

At a fundraising dinner organised by an NGO in Shah Alam last night, Mahathir (photo) had misspoken and said the government will abolish the “Social Security Act” but went on to describe the features of the National Security Council Act 2016 (NSC Act). 

“We are now restoring the rule of law, but we find many laws that oppress the people. Recently, the so-called Social Security Act was introduced whereby the government can arrest anyone without bringing them to court.

“There will be no court hearing if the government arrest anybody. And if that person dies after an arrest, there will be no inquiry. So, even if a person who is arrested is murdered, there will be no action against the people who murdered the people arrested.

“That is the law passed by Datuk Seri Najib. We will remove, repeal that law,” he said last night.

The NSC Act allows the set up of National Security Council, which has emergency-like power to declare security zones. 

One provision that is unique to the NSC and not present in Sosma is that it allows magistrates and coroners to dispense with death inquiries for any dead bodies found in a security zone, provided that they are satisfied the person was killed by security forces which conducted operations in the area.

Mahathir had been a stern critic of the law and called for its abolition on numerous occasions. It is also among six laws that Pakatan Harapan has promised to abolish in its election manifesto.

As for Sosma, Harapan only promised to abolish “draconian provisions” in the Act.

Sosma allows the police increased powers to detain suspects and conduct investigations on offences that are considered security offences, especially terrorism, compared to the powers available under the Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act 1950. 

Nevertheless, Mahathir’s comments last night were widely misconstrued to be referring to Sosma rather than NSC Act in media reports.

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