National security policy first before NSC Bill, says academic

In his criticism of the Bill, REFSA senior fellow Lam Choong Wah (right) said that the NSC Bill weighed heavily on empowering the executive head while reform in securities agencies was completely absent. — Picture by Choo Choy May
In his criticism of the Bill, REFSA senior fellow Lam Choong Wah (right) said that the NSC Bill weighed heavily on empowering the executive head while reform in securities agencies was completely absent. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — Research for Social Advancement (REFSA) senior fellow Lam Choong Wah today called for the halt to the National Security Council (NSC) Bill as Malaysia had no policy on national security matters in the first place.

He said that while he agreed on the need for the institutionalisation of a national security body, there was a lack of a security reform agenda to guide its formation.

“There must be a national security policy in the first place, otherwise we are just setting it up blindly,” he said while speaking at a public forum entitled “National Security Council Bill — Chain of Command Compromised?” organised by the Bar Council.

“There is a need to replace the NSC Bill with something that concentrates on security regime, and maintain our NSC as an advisory body only,” he added. 

In his criticism of the Bill, he said that the NSC Bill weighed heavily on empowering the executive head while reform in securities agencies was completely absent. 

“[In its present form], it is only to protecting Najib’s regime. It has nothing to do with national security,” he said referring to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who as Prime Minister, would head the NSC as chairman. 

He added that issues such as abolishing special branch and the need for setting up of an accountable intelligence agency subject to parliamentary review still required attention and could be part of the security reform of National Security Policy. 

He further questioned the intention of the NSC Bill as it did not include the Foreign Minister in the council despite external security being under the said minister’s purview.

“The Foreign minister should be the one who deals with international security. External threats,” he said. 

“Our NSC Bill is designed to deal with internal security threats rather than external threats.”

The NSC Bill was recently passed during the tail-end of the last Parliamentary sitting.

Civil societies and lawyers have criticised the Bill for the amount of power given to the NSC’s chairman.

Among others, the NSC is given power to declare any area a security threat, and also the power to utilise the police and military.

The military by Constitution is commanded by the Yang Dipertuan Agong.

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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