Malaysia not only country eyeing anti-terror law, Hishammuddin tells critics

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said countries across the world are also mulling legislations to combat terrorism, in response to criticism of Putrajaya’s plan to reintroduce preventive detention. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said countries across the world are also mulling legislations to combat terrorism, in response to criticism of Putrajaya’s plan to reintroduce preventive detention. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12‎ — Countries across the world are mulling legislation specifically to combat terrorism, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said today to fend off criticism of Putrajaya’s plan to reintroduce preventive detention.

The defence minister also added that the proposed law, tentatively dubbed the Prevention of Terrorism Act, has been in the works long before the threat of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group rose to prominence.

“We are not a unique case to this. Even the French and the European countries are looking at ways on the legal aspect or laws to be strengthened in combating terrorism,” Hishammuddin told reporters today.

“I don’t think any country in the world is exempted from the possible threat of IS and what has happened in Paris in the last few days shows that no one is immune or safe from the possible threat of IS,” he added.

Hishammuddin said that it was also “very premature” for critics to denounce the law as it was yet to be tabled in Parliament‎.

On Saturday, The New Straits Times (NST) reported senior police officials as pushing to expedite a new law – tentatively dubbed the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) – to empower law enforcement to pre-emptively head off militancy and extremism in light of the deadly attacks in Paris.

The newspaper had quoted unnamed police sources as saying that the new law would encompass preventive detention powers and closed court hearings that were done away when the ISA was repealed three years ago.

A police source also claimed that the authorities have been forced to release “scores of terror suspects” in the previous two years due to strict evidential rules in regular courts that prevented prosecutors from adducing surveillance videos, wiretaps, photos and more in open trial.

Lawyers contacted by the Malay Mail Online subsequently criticised the proposed law and the claims made by the unnamed police officials, saying that preventive detention laws were a knee-jerk and ineffectual response to combating terrorism.

They also added that Putrajaya has not demonstrated why the existing Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), enacted to maintain public order and security after the abolition of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA), was inadequate for the purpose.