PUTRAJAYA, Dec 2 — The proposed National Security Council Bill would confer such powers on the prime minister that it risks turning Malaysia into a dictatorship, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
The former prime minister said that the executive branch already wielded ample powers at the moment.
“I think currently the power is too much already, we add some more, then we will have a dictatorship,” the country’s longest-serving prime minister told reporters at the sidelines of a book launch by his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali.
He then agreed if the introduction of the law was regressive and a return to the days when Malaysia had been under colonial rule.
“Well, looks like it, there was no democracy under the British, we were ruled from London,” the former Umno president said.
The Bill, which was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim yesterday, 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”.
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.