Draconian laws to continue despite Pakatan promise to abolish them

KUALA LUMPUR: Certain draconian laws will still be enforced in Malaysia, but only on issues of national security, public order, and race relations says Gobind Singh Deo (pic).

The Communications and Multimedia Minister clarified that the moratorium (suspension) that is being lifted on several laws, namely the Prevention of Crime Act (Amendment) 2017 (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), Sedition Act 1948 and Security Offences Special Measures Act (Sosma) is limited to incidents that threaten national security, public order, and race relations.

“We are still in the process of amending these laws and we will announce it once we have a new framework,” he said.

Gobind explained that certain quarters believe that the Penal Code already has enough provisions to deal with incidents like the Seafield temple riots, but another group sees a need to continue the sterner laws.

“The Cabinet considered all these (arguments) and the decision was made in respect of national security, public order, and race relations,” he said.

However in March, Pakatan Harapan had announced in their manifesto that the “draconian laws” of the Sedition Act and Poca would be abolished.

The manifesto had also promised that “draconian provisions (parts)” of laws such as Pota and Sosma would be abolished.

Social reform group Aliran has objected to Sosma, Poca and Pota as such laws allow detention without trial, much like the dreaded ISA (Internal Security Act) which was repealed and replaced with Sosma.

“Detention without trial laws can be used against a person for any alleged reason, which may also be ‘fake’ or false.

“The victim cannot even challenge the alleged reasons used to justify the arrest, detention or restrictions through a judicial review,” said Aliran in an article in September.

On Sunday (Dec 2), Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the moratorium (suspension) was being lifted on those acts to handle riots at the temple.

The riots on Nov 26 and 27, due to disagreements over relocating the temple, had resulted in several people being injured as well as damage to vehicles and property.

Among those injured was fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, 24, who was beaten by rioters while responding to a fire at the site.

He is now receiving treatment at the National Heart Institute where his condition is reported to be critical but stable.

In Nov 2016, Maria Chin Abdullah, then leading electoral reform group Bersih 2.0, was detained under Sosma.

When she became a Member of Parliament after the last general elections, she asked Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in August if the government would continue to enforce laws such as Sosma and Poca.

On Nov 13, Muhyiddin had said that the government is still studying preventive security laws (that allow for detention without trial), and “hopes” to be able to amend or repeal them.n

Referring to Sosma, Poca and Pota. he said “special technical committees” had been set up to look into all the proposals and feedback gathered from various stakeholders.

Muhyiddin “hopes” the government will be able to table Bills in Parliament to amend and abolish such laws, after the Cabinet has approved it, he said on Nov 13.

“It is my hope that it will be tabled by this (Parliament) meeting or the latest in the upcoming meeting,” he said in reply to a supplementary question in Parliament from Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya).

Muhyiddin’s reason for retaining the laws was that the normal justice process will need clear evidence from witnesses in court.

“For cases involving security cases, the statements obtained from witnesses is sometimes based on intelligence and could not be exposed openly in court to protect their identities.

“There are also cases where witnesses refused to testify in court despite given the assurance that their identities will be protected for security reasons, or to avoid their own or family member’s security from being exposed,” said Muhyiddin on Nov 13.

He said the government took note that preventive detention laws have created accusations of infringement of human rights.

He added that the government is studying and reviewing the laws to “improve” them.

Muhyiddin said the study will look at detention periods under such laws which are considered too long and wide police powers to detain and investigate which are open to abuse.

Other areas to be considered are powers and limited time periods for judges to intervene and examine if detentions are justified.

Source from: The Star

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