End the Pretence: Repeal SOSMA
The Malaysian Bar is dismayed that the provision for pre-charge detention for up to 28 days, pursuant to the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (“SOSMA”), was renewed for a further five-year period by the Dewan Rakyat on 5 April 2017.
The Malaysian Bar reiterates that pre-charge detention under SOSMA — coupled with the absence of any judicial supervision or oversight of that detention, and the frequent delay or denial of immediate access by detainees to legal representation — is a gross violation of the fundamental liberties protected under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution. This period of 28 days is twice as long as that provided for in other offences pursuant to the Criminal Procedure Code, and is wholly unnecessary.
It cannot be denied that SOSMA has been used to detain persons who have not engaged in subversion or action prejudicial to public order. The likes of Dato’ Sri Khairuddin Abu Hassan, Matthias Chang, and Maria Chin Abdullah, all of whom have been detained under SOSMA, were in fact involved in attempts to increase transparency and accountability of government, and participative democracy in Malaysia.
In the case of Dato’ Sri Khairuddin Abu Hassan and Matthias Chang, both the High Court and the Court of Appeal have ruled that they should not have been detained under SOSMA. The Sessions Court later discharged and acquitted them. It is regrettable that both of them had to endure such a long period of detention under SOSMA merely for lodging reports with law enforcement authorities abroad on the alleged misappropriation of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (“1MDB”) funds.
As for Maria Chin Abdullah, the Government released her from custody just before the court hearing of her habeas corpus application was due to take place.
More glaringly, the Government has simply failed to honour its promise. When the Prime Minister introduced the SOSMA bill in the Dewan Rakyat on 16 April 2012, he said:
… apabila akta ini berkuat kuasa, kerajaan juga akan menubuhkan satu jawatankuasa secara pentadbiran untuk menyemak keseluruhan akta ini daripada semasa ke semasa dan jawatankuasa ini akan juga bertanggungjawab untuk meneliti pelaksanaan akta tersebut dan mengemukakan syor untuk penambahbaikan. . . . Jawatankuasa ini akan dianggotai bukan sahaja dari agensi-agensi berkenaan tetapi juga oleh Presiden Majlis Peguam dan SUHAKAM.
Nearly five years after the assurance by the Prime Minister, no such committee has been established. His pledge has proven to be mere empty rhetoric.
Given this clear evidence of the abuse of SOSMA, and the lack of good faith, the Malaysian Bar calls on the Government to end the pretence and to repeal SOSMA immediately.
26 May 2017