Rights activists say ‘shocked’ that BN MPs accepted NSC Bill without question

Datuk S. Ambiga said she was especially surprised that BN MPs from Sabah and Sarawak did not voice any concerns regarding the Bill. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Datuk S. Ambiga said she was especially surprised that BN MPs from Sabah and Sarawak did not voice any concerns regarding the Bill. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7— Human rights groups and advocates have expressed disappointment and shock that no Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmaker opposed or sought to delay the National Security Council Bill 2015, amid fears that the law would send Malaysia towards dictatorial rule.

Rights groups who were present at the Dewan Rakyat last week also praised federal opposition lawmakers for putting up “solid arguments” against the Bill despite having very little time to study its details.

“To be honest the opposition’s arguments were formidable and were not answered. Given that they were dumped with the Bill at the last minute, I think they did a very good job,” National Human Rights Society (Hakam) president Datuk S. Ambiga told Malay Mail Online.

“There is little anyone can do when there is a Whip and the government is hell bent on pushing it through. What I had hoped for was that enough sensible BN MPs would see the wisdom of postponing the Bill and could have persuaded the government not to rush it through,” she said.

She added that she was especially surprised that BN MPs from Sabah and Sarawak did not voice any concerns regarding the Bill even though not a single representative from the two states sit on the National Security Council.

The ministers on the proposed council are the prime minister, deputy prime minister, home minister, defence minister, and multimedia and communications minister — all of whom are currently from Umno.

“I should imagine that Sabah and Sarawak should be particularly concerned not least because not a single member of the Council comes from there although the government repeatedly used Lahad Datu as a reason for the Bill. Strange isn’t it?” Ambiga said, referring to the invasion in Sabah back in 2013.

Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan said that opposition MPs did their job this time in arguing against the Bill.

“Some of the points raised by the opposition MPs were really good. And seeing the numbers — 70 plus during bloc voting is actually quite good in terms of attendance,” he told Malay Mail Online.

Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said she was absolutely shocked that BN MPs could ‘stomach the stolen freedoms’ under the NSC. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said she was absolutely shocked that BN MPs could ‘stomach the stolen freedoms’ under the NSC. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said that opposition MPs put up “solid arguments” against the NSC Bill, while their BN counterparts kept silent while the Bill was passed.

“I am absolutely shocked that BN MPs could stomach the stolen freedoms under the NSC.

“None of them gave any resistance to a Bill that’s calling for dictatorship and military rule. Do they not realise that not only the rakyat will suffer but they too will be affected?” she told Malay Mail Online.

The Dewan Rakyat passed by a majority vote the National Security Council (NSC) Bill 2015 after nearly seven hours of heated debates on Thursday, amid protests by the opposition and civil society groups against what they claim is a law that would confer wide-ranging powers to the prime minister.

The House passed the Bill on a voice vote at the third and final reading, after the opposition failed to stop the Bill at the policy stage debate in a bloc vote with 107 voting for and 74 against the Bill.

Opposition MPs had during the earlier debate claimed that conferring the prime minister powers to declare a security area would circumvent the constitutional requirement to convince the Agong to declare an emergency, which would be done at the advice of the federal Cabinet.

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) — which would be chaired by the prime minister — 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.

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