Don’t break your promise, Pakatan told after ‘oppressive’ laws allowed for use

Gobind had on Monday announced that the government chose to lift a freeze on several controversial security laws, citing concern over a threat to national security, public order and race relations. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Gobind had on Monday announced that the government chose to lift a freeze on several controversial security laws, citing concern over a threat to national security, public order and race relations. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 — The Malaysian Bar urged the government today to reinstate a moratorium on several laws it deemed repressive.

In a statement today, its president George Varughese labelled as “extremely disappointing” the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration’s move to lift the moratorium after riots at a Hindu temple.

“A mere three weeks ago, the same Minister had said that a draft relating to the review of the preventive detention laws was at the final stage and that he hoped the review would be tabled at the current or next sitting of Parliament,” George said in a statement, referring to Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo.

“By withdrawing the moratorium, the Pakatan Harapan government is reneging on its commitment — made in ‘Promise 27’ of its election manifesto for the 14th General Election — to abolish laws that it had itself described as ‘oppressive’ and ‘tyrannical’.  

“The Government’s pledge would ring hollow, were it to resort to the same draconian laws that it had denounced the previous administration for invoking,” he added.

He was referring to a recent statement by Gobind, who on Monday announced that the government has chosen to lift a freeze on several controversial security laws, citing concern over a threat to national security, public order and race relations.

Gobind however sought to assure the public that the government will only use these laws in exceptional cases, after Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced last Friday that the Cabinet has decided to withdraw the moratorium on the Prevention of Crime Act (Amendment) 2017 (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), Sedition Act 1948 and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) following the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple riot in Subang on November 26.

George said that such a move by the government would only give rise to impressions that the administration did not make good of its election pledge, reminding PH that it was the same reason which led to the people changing the government on May 9.  

“The statement by the Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Gobind Singh Deo, that the moratorium ‘is limited to incidents that threaten national security, public order, and race relations’ is ironic, in that the previous government had often justified its use of those repressive laws on the same basis.

“The Malaysian Bar calls upon the government to immediately reinstate the moratorium imposed on those laws, and to work to repeal them without delay.  We are confident that the government can rise to the challenges of governing the nation in line with its commitment to respect fundamental liberties, principles of natural justice, and the rule of law,” George added.