Dismissing fears of abuse, Zahid Hamidi insists PCA infallible

Zahid said that the PCA is criminal-specific and thereby precluded claims that it was similar to and meant to replace the repealed law. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Zahid said that the PCA is criminal-specific and thereby precluded claims that it was similar to and meant to replace the repealed law. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 — Preventive detention reintroduced through the newly-amended Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) cannot be abused to target political opponents, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi insisted today.

In an interview with weekend edition The Star newspaper, Zahid also sought to differentiate the detention powers provided by the PCA from those provided by now-repealed laws, saying this was not detention without trial as these may now be reviewed by the High Court following a decision.

“With the PCA, you can’t go wrong. You can’t use it against politicians unless, of course, the politician concerned is involved with the underworld or other criminal activities,” Ahmad Zahid told The Sunday Star.

“In my mind, there is no way the PCA can be misused because it is very specific and focused solely on criminals.”

Unlike the Internal Security Act (ISA), which he described as “too general and broad”, Zahid said that the PCA is criminal-specific and thereby precluded claims that it was similar to and meant to replace the repealed law.

In the ISA, there were three broad categories for detention under Section 73, he said, which included economic sabotage, religious sabotage and political sabotage.

“You can’t detain someone under the PCA for, say, threatening public security because it is purely used for a criminal act,” he explained.

Zahid also stressed that preventive detention in the PCA was re-introduced following Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s strict directive that there will be no detention without trial.

“As for the decision to detain someone, this can be reviewed by the High Court once that decision has been made. To me, this is not detention without trial because the detention is preventive,” he said.

The Prevention of Crime (Amendment and Extension) 2013 Bill was passed early this month in a Parliament session that extended past midnight.

It was passed on a voice majority by government supporters at 12.50am, despite protests from opposition lawmakers who accused the government of backpedalling on its promise for political reform by reinstating arbitrary detention powers.

The amended PCA effectively reintroduces detention without trial into the country’s statute books, a key element that the Najib administration had done away with when the ISA and Emergency Ordinance (EO) were repealed.

However, Putrajaya withdrew several Bills containing a raft of amendments to other crime laws that were tabled in support of the contentious tweaks to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (PCA) due to lack of time.

The Bills, which were due for second reading, included amendments to laws like the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code that were part of the government’s efforts to fight organised crime.

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