Is the National Security Act ominously close? — Adrian Lim Chee En

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https://hakam.org.my/wp/2016/07/11/is-the-national-security-act-ominously-close-adrian-lim-chee-en/
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Source: FMT

BY ADRIAN LIM CHEE EN

Student group Challenger urges the government to restore the country's sense of security without jeopardising the fundamental civil liberties of Malaysians.  Pic taken from FMT News

Student group Challenger urges the government to restore the country’s sense of security without jeopardising the fundamental civil liberties of Malaysians. Pic taken from FMT News

On June 21, land rights activist and candidate in the Sarawak State election Bill Kayong was shot dead in Miri. The police have since claimed the case solved following the recovery of the murder weapon, despite protests claiming his death was politically motivated.

A week later on June 28, eight were injured after a grenade was thrown into a pub in Puchong. The cops have since announced the incident as the first Islamic State attack on Malaysian soil.

The very next day, another man was shot five times in an attempted murder along the KL-Seremban Highway.

On July 4, a woman and three others escaped unharmed after a gunman fired 12 bullets at her house at Taman Bukit Desa, Kuala Lumpur.

On the first day of Raya, a shooting incident took place at OUG where a businesswoman was shot dead and her daughter, critically injured.

The very same evening, two were killed and another, seriously wounded after a machete attack at Solaris Dutamas.

Yesterday, three Indonesian nationals were kidnapped off the coast of Lahad Datu.

Besides the fear for security and safety, what is also highly alarming to human rights advocates and activists is the possibility of these incidents being potentially exploited as a reason to exercise powers as outlined in the National Security Council Act.

This means extreme powers will be conferred to eight individuals in the National Security Council, namely the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Defence Minister, Home Affairs Minister, Communications/Multimedia Minister, Chief Secretary to the Government, Armed Forces Chief and the Inspector-General of Police.

Any areas within Malaysia would be declared “security areas” at the discretion of the Prime Minister.

Safeguards guaranteed to citizens in respect of arrest, seizure of property and even killing will be suspended in these areas.

The vague terms in the Act coupled with near to zero mechanisms for checks and balances raises concerns that such declarations will carry massive implications that could potentially be a legal black hole for those in power to misuse politically and to exercise full control over the people.

To borrow Edmund Murrow’s quote: “To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful.”

Have those in power been truthful? Have arbitrary laws been misused in the past?

The administration’s track record speaks for itself.

People have been arrested under Sosma, despite earlier claiming it will not be used to silence dissent. Government critics have been detained without trial. Dozens of Malaysian politicians and activists have been arrested, investigated or charged with sedition. Facebook postings and WhatsApp messages have courted arrests and detentions.

To deepen the quagmire, last week, the person accused of ordering the Puchong pub attacks rubbished the IGP’s claims.

The accused, Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, who is a Malaysian IS militant currently based in Syria further claimed that this was an attempt to scapegoat the arrested men and himself, and an attempt to divert Malaysians from the real issues plaguing the country.

There are questions about whether the authorities are cooking up stories to help lessen the distress surrounding the string of attacks on its citizens.

In fact, it was not too long ago when we saw how eager the government was to pass the NSC Bill.

In December last year, the Bill was bulldozed through the Dewan Rakyat in epic fashion, then passed in the Senate despite courting criticisms from both sides of the political divide.

In February, the Council of Rulers raised their concerns and recommended amendments, only to be ignored.

The Bill then came into force by virtue of Article 66 of the Federal Constitution.

Article 66(4A), passed in 1983 by then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, provides that even if a Bill does not receive the Ruler’s endorsement, it will automatically become law after 30 days as if Royal Assent was given.

Will this be an opportunity for the NSC Act to be exploited?

Challenger urges the government to restore the country’s sense of security without jeopardising the fundamental civil liberties of Malaysians.

Adrian Lim Chee En is an activist and Vice-President III of student group, Challenger.