The bill is shocking because it will confer on the prime minister excessive powers in matters of national security, says Christopher Chong.
First a couple of announcements:
On Tuesday, 8 December, Aliran and Suaram are organising a forum in Penang about the text of the TPP agreement and what it really says. You can register online here.
Then, on Saturday, 12 December, Penang Forum is holding a forum about the need to save the hills of Penang from degradation. Register online here.
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Malaysians received a rude shock on 2 December when minister Shahidan Kassim announced the introduction of the National Security Bill 2015. The bill is shocking because it will confer on the prime minister excessive powers in matters of national security.
More disturbing is the fact that the bill does not seem to have any transparent accountability or checks and balances on the powers granted to the prime minister.
The bill was passed in haste with a voice vote in Parliament at 10.55pm on 3 December.
In short, should this bill become law, it would be detrimental to the health of democracy in the country.
Read Aliran’s response on 4 December:
Aliran is shocked that the government of the day has suddenly tabled and passed the National Security Council Bill 2015 in Parliament.
The haste with which this unclear bill was passed, without prior consultation with civil society and even parliamentarians, shows a total lack of respect for our constitutional democracy and due process.
At the heart of the bill is the concentration of power in an unaccountable council, headed by the prime minister as chairman, and comprising those who had been appointed by him and reporting directly to him i.e. the deputy prime minister as deputy chairman, the minister of defence, the minister of home affairs, the minister of communications and multimedia, the chief secretary to the government, the chief of defence forces and the inspector-general of police.
Disturbingly, the notion of national security and the scope of authority are not defined and therefore are open to abuse by the NSC.
For instance, the bill allows the NSC to declare any area, e.g. Jelutong, where Aliran is located, a security area for a variety of grounds which may have little do with genuine national security concerns. Once declared a security area, the security forces deployed “may without warrant arrest any person found committing, alleged to have committed or reasonably suspected of having committed any offence under any written laws in the security area”.
All constitutional guarantees and fundamental rights can be ignored or suspended within that area. This is completely unconstitutional and amounts to a declaration of emergency in a specific area. Worse, the NSC may dispense with inquests in respect of members of the security forces and persons killed within the security area as a result of operations in the security area.
In effect, the prime minister, as chair of the NSC, may exercise authoritarian emergency powers without the need for a proclamation of emergency under Article 150 of the Constitution. This effectively appropriates the powers of the Yang diPertuan Agong, again amounting to a violation of our Constitution.
Shame on all those who drafted and helped to pass this dastardly bill through Parliament. This authoritarian piece of legislation clearly runs counter to the democratic process and renders meaningless the notion of constitutional government – as the democratic world understands it – which should provide for checks and balances.
Given that we already have Pota, Sosma, the Prevention of Crime Act, the Sedition Act, the Communications and Multimedia Act and the Penal Code – which apparently are for protecting our national security, though often abused – why then the need for the NSC?
There is no doubt this NSC Bill has nothing to do with the country’s national security.
It has everything to do with protecting the political security of the scandal-ridden Najib administration and of the prime minister himself. It comes at a time when the government’s and the prime minister’s legitimacy is questionable. The scandals have been highlighted in the international media and actively remain under the scrutiny of various foreign regulatory and investigative agencies.
The prime minister is even being questioned by members of his own political party while a former prime minister with a large following and a string of Umno branch heads, not to mention the opposition and members of civil society, have relentlessly called for him to step down.
We call upon the Senate to have the courage and decency to reject this bill. We appeal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to listen to the voices of the people and to safeguard our constitutional democracy and the rule of law.
Those of us who love this country and care for democracy must stand steadfast against the draconian NSC Bill and demand the repeal of all draconian laws.
Meanwhile, Choo Sing Chye wonders whether we are repeating McCarthyism in Malaysia. According to him McCarthyism is defined as “the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.”
Aliran recently concluded its 39th AGM, at which members unanimously passed resolutions calling upon the government to:
- quickly complete the the investigation into 1MDB and the RM2.6bn donation and bring the culprits to book;
- abolish the Sedition Act, Sosma, Pota and other coercive laws; and
- release Anwar Ibrahim immediately especially as a UN Working Group had concluded that his imprisonment was arbitrary and that he was denied a fair trial and then jailed for political reasons.
You can read the report on the AGM and its resolution here.
Aliran also issued a statement about the voting on the motion in the Penang state assembly about the land reclamation.
That’s all for now.
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
5 December 2015