The controversial National Security Council Bill (NSC) is a serious threat to Malaysia’s constitutional government, said lawyers’ groups in an open letter, as it upsets the separation of powers between executive, legislature and judiciary.
The open letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak comes as Putrajaya attempts to push through the bill despite widely held concerns from civil society and opposition parties towards the new law.
The groups, who represent lawyers from the peninsula and East Malaysia, also refuted Putrajaya’s claims that the bill was necessary to deal with terrorism and incidents such as the 2013 Lahad Datu incursion by Sulu militants.
“It is apparent that the bill vests and concentrates enormous executive and emergency powers in the NSC and the prime minister,” said the statement signed by the Malaysian Bar, Sarawak Advocates’ Association and the Sabah Law Association.
“This upsets the delicate separation of powers in the constitution between the executive, legislature and judiciary on the one hand, and the constitutional monarchy on the other hand.”
The letter was signed by Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru, Sarawak Advocates Association president Leonard Shim and Sabah Law Association president Brenndon Soh.
The powers it would give to the prime minister and the NSC are in effect emergency powers, but without the need for a proclamation of an emergency under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution.
“This usurps the powers vested in the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and effectively resurrects the powers granted to the government under the Emergency Ordinances, which were repealed by Parliament in 2011.”
The letter listed 16 problems with the bill. Some of the main issues include giving the NSC command of the armed forces, which violates Article 41 of the Constitution and the ability of the prime minister to declare security areas based on vague reasons.
“We are disconcerted that the government has failed to fully explain the reasons for the bill,” said the groups, adding that the Lahad Datu incident was not good enough a reason.
Article 150 of the Constitution already provides for the proclamation of an emergency, which provides sufficient powers to address any future incursions, like that of Lahad Datu, the groups said.
The government already has more than enough powers to deal with security concerns such as terrorism, they said.
“The bill extends those powers even further, allowing the government to restrict movement, abandon civil liberties, and administer areas centrally and directly, bypassing state and local government.
“It avoids public scrutiny and proper accountability, and promotes unfettered discretion and an environment of impunity.” – January 6, 2016.