KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 2 — A PKR federal lawmaker today sounded alarm bells over the far-reaching powers of the new Bill to fight terrorism, calling it unprecedented and “unnecessary” as it allows the prime minister and the National Security Council to make arbitrary arrests, take temporary possession of land and buildings and seize belongings, among others.
The lawmaker, Padang Serai MP N. Surendran, urged the government to withdraw the National Security Council Bill 2015 that was tabled yesterday for the first reading, saying it would be in the interest of the public and the nation.
“This new Bill is entirely unnecessary and excessive. There are stringent laws already available dealing with serious threats to the nation, including POTA and SOSMA,” he said, referring to two other preventive laws currently in force — the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.
“There are no existing threats to our nation, whether internal or external, that even remotely justify these drastic new powers,” he added.
The Bill, which was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim yesterday 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”.
Surendran noted today that Clause 18(1) of the Bill that allows the prime minister to declare any area in Malaysia a “security area” imposes no limits on size.
“A large part or even the whole of Malaysia can be declared a security area,” he pointed out.
“Unusually, although public order comes under the Home Minister, it is the Prime Minister who is given this enormous power to declare security areas. There appears no precedent for this in our legislative history,” he added.
Within this “security area”, Surendran observed, the director of operations appointed by the NSC has extensive powers that allow him or her to evacuate the public from their homes and resettle them; impose curfews, conduct arrests and seizures; and searches.
“Such powers raise serious and very real concerns for civil liberties,” he said.
He also noted that Clause 35 provides that the magistrate may dispense with inquests where persons have been killed as a result of operations by security forces.
“An inquest is essential in any case of suspicious death. What reason can there be to stop inquests in security areas?
“Not holding inquests may encourage abuse of power by the security forces, including custodial abuse,” he said.
This clause, Surendran said, is a breach of Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees life and personal liberty to Malaysians.
“We call upon the government, in the interests of the public and the nation, to withdraw this Bill in its entirety,” he said.
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.
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.