Wrong to ignore rulers’ concerns about NSC Act, MPs say

Parti Amanah Negara's Khalid Samad (pic) said that it was a worrying development that the Conference of Rulers was disregarded so casually. — File pic
Parti Amanah Negara's Khalid Samad (pic) said that it was a worrying development that the Conference of Rulers was disregarded so casually. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Putrajaya should not have gazetted the National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016 without addressing issues raised by the Conference of Rulers, said opposition lawmakers.

Although conceding that the move was legal, they said the monarchy’s decision to withhold royal assent suggested serious concerns with the law that empowered the government to declare localised emergencies.

“The Conference of Rulers had also asked for a review of the Bill earlier. Hence, it is clear that the rulers themselves stand with the Opposition and the people on this matter pertaining to the criticism of the Bill,” DAP's Steven Sim said.

“The government clearly acted harshly in this matter, granting immense power to the PM (and) disregarding legitimate criticism on the Bill by the people, the Opposition and, now, by the King,” the Bukit Mertajam MP said.

The necessity for the Yang diPertuan Agong’s express approval to pass laws was removed in a constitutional amendment by the Mahathir administration in 1994. Following this, laws are deemed to automatically receive royal assent 30 days after they are passed by both Houses of Parliament.

Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) communications director Khalid Samad echoed Sim’s concerns, adding that it was a worrying development that the Conference of Rulers was disregarded so casually.

“In the first place, their action of passing it without royal consent shows little respect for the institution of the royalty,” he said.

The National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016 was gazetted as law Tuesday, without receiving royal assent.

National newswire Bernama reported on February 17 that the Conference of Rulers, chaired by the Sultan of Selangor, had written to the prime minister asking that the Bill be “refined.”

However local news portal The Star Online quoted Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohd Apandi Ali as saying yesterday that “There is no amendment to the Bill.”

PKR’s Wong Chen yesterday suggested that the law may have been processed wrongly, and may be unconstitutional as a result.

“There are legal opinions out there saying that the Bill didn’t follow procedural steps whereby they should’ve presented it to the Conference of Rulers before tabling it in Parliament.

“Even if the law is gazetted, upon the enforcement of law, the public can still challenge the constitutionality of the Act based on the procedure, possibly matters relating to tabling of the Bill,” he said in a phone interview with Malay Mail Online.

Wong also warned that the Act conferred more powers on the Executive than currently wielded by the Agong, which he said was clearly unconstitutional.

The NSC Act proposes to allow the National Security Council — 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.

Once the NSC takes 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”.

Malaysia’s three law associations — the Malaysian Bar, the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak and the Sabah Law Association — expressed concern last January about the law concentrating “enormous” executive and emergency powers in the NSC and in the prime minister.

They also pointed out that for the government to hold emergency powers without the need to declare emergency under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution, it would usurp the authority assigned to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

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