The law is far broader than can be justified by any real threat to Malaysia’s national security, says Phil Robertson.
Now we know what the path to Malaysian dictatorship looks like.
The people of Malaysia, and international friends of Malaysia committed to human rights, should urgently demand this bill be withdrawn by the government, or rejected by Parliament.
The Malaysian government’s proposed National Security Council Bill is quite clearly a tool for repression. While touted as a law to protect national security, the law provides expansive powers that could fundamentally threaten human rights and democratic rule.
The bill would give sweeping powers to a council headed by the prime minister to declare a security area to protect “any interest of Malaysia”. Once such a declaration is made, the security forces are permitted, among other things, to limit freedom of movement, conduct searches without warrant for evidence of violation of “any written law”, and arrest individuals without a warrant on suspicion of committing “any offence under any written law”.
Given the incredible range of broad and abusive laws already being used by Prime Minister Najib and his government to arrest and harass government critics, the breadth of the bill’s language is truly frightening. The law would also establish new lows on impunity by security forces by protecting them from any legal proceedings for any actions taken “in good faith” and impose a sweeping obligation of secrecy on all those involved with the council.
The law is far broader than can be justified by any real threat to Malaysia’s national security, and creates a real risk of abuse in the hands of Prime Minister Najib and his embattled government. It should be urgently withdrawn by the government or rejected by parliament.
Phil Robertson is deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.