Several groups have condemned Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s statement that the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) and the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) will be retained albeit with some amendments.
In separate statements today, Lawyers for Liberty and Suaram said Pakatan Harapan is backtracking on its promises by retaining these laws and using the same justifications put forward by the previous BN-led administration.
Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy said Harapan should therefore simply admit they are no different from BN.
“Civil society's demand on this is simple. Abolish Sosma and Poca. Give detainees an opportunity to defend themselves fairly in court, in line with the established principle of the right to a fair trial.
“Failing which, Pakatan Harapan should drop the charade and acknowledge that they are no different from BN,” he said.
Lawyers for Liberty executive director Latheefa Koya, meanwhile, accused the government of taking the “easy way out” by retaining these laws.
The groups were responding to Muhyiddin’s speech at the Bersatu general assembly on Sunday. The Bersatu president was reported to have said that the two laws would be retained with some amendments.
“If the current laws are not maintained, there will be those who think they are free to do anything and threaten the country with gangsterism and terrorism,” Free Malaysia Today quoted him as saying.
The Malaysian Insight, meanwhile, quoted the home minister as saying that Sosma is needed to ensure Malaysia’s stability and to deter threats to national security.
Separately, lawyer Syahredzan Johan (above) suggested that Sosma could be amended in a way that the provision for 28-day detention is done through the court system instead of through police powers.
However, he said Poca could not be “rescued” from being an unjust and repressive law through amendments.
In addition, he said Sosma contains provisions that are contrary to the criminal justice system’s rules of evidence. These must be removed to ensure that Sosma detainees are given a fair trial, he added.
Nevertheless, the political secretary to Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang concurred that both laws should be abolished.
“Although it is not impossible to amend Somsa by removing aspects that are problematic, such an exercise requires a total overhaul of the law.
“It is, therefore, easier and more prudent for the government to abolish the act entirely and to replace it with legislation that can strike a balance between fundamental liberties and the need to combat threats to national security.
“Poca allows for detention without trial. Such legislation is an affront to the rule of law and has no place in a democratic country such as Malaysia. Poca is a law that echoes the much-criticised Internal Security Act (ISA).
“No amendment can be made that may ‘rescue’ Poca from being an unjust and repressive law,” he said in a statement today.
Sevan said claims that Sosma and Poca would ensure safety and security are “deceitful at best”.
“The minister is merely making the same superfluous claim as the BN administration in his attempt to justify the need or existence of a parallel ‘justice’ system under Sosma and Poca where fundamental rights protected by the Federal Constitution and fair trial principles are dismissed and ignored.
“Ambiguous and arbitrary claims that these laws are effective in combating national security threats without establishing how they do so and how the Criminal Procedure Code and Penal Code fail to do so are irresponsible and malicious,” he said.
Pledged to abolish
Sevan added that Suaram and other NGOs had also submitted a memorandum to Muhyiddin regarding Sosma and Poca and the home minister had supposedly promised to engage with civil societies on the matter.
This purportedly includes establishing a working group with civil society to review the laws while a moratorium is put in place.
“Since then, there has been no further feedback and communication from the ministry,” said Sevan.
In its election manifesto, Harapan had pledged to abolish Poca along with several other laws including the Sedition Act 1948, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the National Security Council Act 2016.
It has also promised to abolish “draconian provisions” in Sosma, the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015.
Latheefa (above) said of all the oppressive laws that Harapan had promised to amend or repeal, not a single one has been honoured except for a failed attempt to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act 2018.
A repeal bill for the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 was passed in the Dewan Rakyat last year, but was rejected by the Senate.
She also urged the government to return to its manifesto promise to enhance and modernise the police force.
“This is what is required to effectively and efficiently tackle and prevent crimes, not by using oppressive laws that confer arbitrary powers to the police.
“Further, modernisation of law enforcement methods will also enhance the police’s reputation as well as prevent abuse and misconduct,” she said.