Lawyers for Liberty refers to Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail’s 15 December statement in which he defended his stance not to review the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).
There had been a public outcry since Saifuddin announced on 13 December he will not review the draconian Sosma.
In the 15 December attempt to defend himself, the home minister utterly failed to address the many concerns raised by the public, and instead repeated that there is no need for Sosma to be reviewed at present. He claimed that laws are “dynamic and not static”, that there are some sections of the law which “could be amended” but that his answer is “no” to amending it for now.
This contradictory and nonsensical response is unbefitting of a cabinet minister holding a senior cabinet position. It shows a manifest inability by the home minister to grasp the issues at stake here.
Firstly, he admits that some parts of Sosma need amending. In which case, by this very admission, there can be no justification in delaying amendment or repeal. Any delay will result in continuing injustice and human rights abuses suffered by detainees as a consequence of these problematic sections.
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Secondly, if laws are “dynamic” and not static, as stated by Saifuddin, then they must be reviewed or amended without delay. Dynamic means not set in stone and subject to prompt review when needed. It is contradictory to say that the law is dynamic, and yet stubbornly refuse to review or repeal it.
Thirdly, the home minister offers no explanation why he and his colleagues in Pakatan Harapan voted against Sosma in Parliament in March 2022, and yet now defend that same draconian law. Has Sosma been magically purified because they are now in government?
It is disturbing that concepts of rule of law and due process seem to be of no concern to the new home minster and government. The abuses arising from Sosma’s 28-day remand period, the years spent in prison awaiting trial or appeals and the disregard of basic rules of evidence have all been simply ignored by this home minister.
The home minister and the new government should internalise the concept of life and liberty guaranteed under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution. Sosma is an affront to this inalienable right and there is no justification for its continued existence.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was himself a famous victim of custodial abuse after his fall from power in 1998 and was often on the receiving end of oppressive laws. How is it that a government led by Anwar is blindly defending the Sosma?
Therefore, we urge Anwar Ibrahim to break his silence and intervene in this matter to ensure that Sosma is immediately reviewed or repealed. He must ensure that the PH-led government stays consistent in their stance on Sosma now that they are in power, after years of publicly opposing the act due to its draconian nature.
Zaid Malek is director of Lawyers for Liberty