Malaysian Bar: Security Council law ‘insidious’, door to authoritarianism

Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru noted that the National Security Council Bill would provide the government unfettered powers over virtually all the country’s institutions and state governments. — File pic
Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru noted that the National Security Council Bill would provide the government unfettered powers over virtually all the country’s institutions and state governments. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — The proposed law to grant the government powers to arbitrarily declare security zones where laws and liberties do not apply is a “grave infringement” on the Federal Constitution, the Malaysian Bar said today.

Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru further noted that the National Security Council Bill seeks to provide the government unfettered powers over virtually all the country’s institutions and state governments in the event that a threat to “national security” is declared.

Such powers would also usurp the authority of the Yang diPertuan Agong as it would remove the necessity to seek his consent to declare what would amount to a state of emergency in locations designated “security areas” by the council, he added.

“[We] would remind the government that it has more than enough laws giving it more than enough draconian powers to address security concerns.

“The proposed legislation extends those draconian powers even further, allowing the government to restrict movement, abandon civil liberties, and administer areas centrally and directly, bypassing state and local government,” Steven said in a statement today.

He pointed out that the while the law would empower a newly-formed National Security Council, its selection and chairmanship rested with one individual — the prime minister — essentially meaning that the committee functions as an extension of his decisions.

Despite its central importance in the Bill, the term “national security” is also not clearly defined and would allow the council to virtually designate any matter as one that concerns “national security”, Steven added.

“The Malaysian Bar urges the government to immediately withdraw the National Security Council Bill 2015, and to step back from the abyss of authoritarian rule by respecting the rule of law and our Federal Constitution,” he said in conclusion.

The National Security Council Bill 2015, which was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim on Tuesday, proposes to allow the National Security Council (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 designates a location as 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”.