New National Security Council Bill moots wide powers to combat terrorism

According to the Bill, the NSC's jurisdiction takes effect once the prime minister declares in writing that an area is a 'security area'. — AFP pic
According to the Bill, the NSC's jurisdiction takes effect once the prime minister declares in writing that an area is a 'security area'. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — The federal government today tabled a new bill in Parliament seeking to revamp the National Security Council (NSC), granting it far-reaching enforcement powers in dealing with any and all threats to national security.

The Bill, which was tabled for its first reading by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim this morning, proposes to allow the NSC to take command of the country's security forces and impose strict policing of areas deemed to face security risks.

According to the Bill, the NSC's jurisdiction takes effect once the prime minister declares in writing that an area is a "security area" — a status that is valid for six months at a time, subject to renewal by the prime minister.

Once the NSC takes over control of a security area, security forces will have the right to search or arrest without warrant any individual "found committing, alleged to have committed, or reasonably suspected of having committed any offence under written laws in the security area".

The Bill also seeks to empower security forces to arrest without warrant and take action against those who do not abide by an evacuation order from a security area, and also carry out searches of any vehicle or premise within the security area without a warrant.

For operational purposes, the Bill would provide the NSC's director-general the power to commandeer any land or building in the security area, and order the demolition of any vacant building that is suspected to be used for reasons "prejudicial to national security".

Last October, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak told the Dewan Rakyat that the Bill would seek to enhance Malaysia’s security measures amid terrorism threats both from within and outside the country.

Najib said this was aimed at strengthening the NSC so that it would be on par with similar agencies in other countries like the US and UK.

"In line with the changing geopolitical landscape and the type of threats from non-state actors, regardless of whether from overseas or from within, violent extremism in Malaysia is real and the government has given due attention to combat it.

"Therefore, the government is now in the process of strengthening the NSC to make it more efficient and effective in streamlining the policies as well as the country's security strategies," Najib said.

The NSC in its current form is an extension of the federal Cabinet, and deals largely with coordinating rescue and relief efforts in cases of natural disasters such as floods and the recent earthquake in Sabah.