Lawyers criticise Putrajaya’s plan to include ISA provisions in anti-terror law

Lawyers today slammed Putrajaya over its plans to include certain provisions from the now-defunct Internal Security Act (ISA) in the new anti-terrorism law, saying it is another betrayal to the people after the promise to repeal the Sedition Act was not kept.

Published: 26 January 2015 1:33 PM

N Surendran, PKR’s Padang Serai MP, said the people were led to believe by the Barisan Nasional government, prior to the 13th general election, that Malaysia would be rid of laws on preventive detention with the repeal of ISA.

“It is utterly disgraceful for (Home Minister Datuk Seri) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and other BN leaders to constantly use the Paris attacks as an excuse to pass draconian new laws threatening the civil liberties of all Malaysians.

“Why BN’s rush to bring in harsher laws, when it is in fact not required to tackle the problem of terrorism? What is the real agenda?” the lawyer asked in a statement today.

Wan Junaidi told The Malaysian Insider today that Putrajaya was considering incorporating some of the provisions in the ISA into a new act, in the wake of threats of terrorism such as that posed by the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (Isis).

“The government has promised that the ISA will not be restored, but perhaps after it is vetted, (the new law) will have provisions similar to the ISA,” he said, adding that the law was necessary to curb terrorist activities in the country.

Wan Junaidi said the new law would be divided into different sections, which would include punishment and preventive measures.

Using the recent terrorist attacks in Paris as an example, the minister said the incident served as a lesson for Malaysia and a reminder to the government of the need to be careful in anticipating such violence.

“We cannot wait for someone to bomb a building before we arrest him. No one in Malaysia wants that to happen.

“Do you want what happened in Paris to occur here? Sometimes, we go on and on about democracy, but we never asked ourselves how much of a democracy we want,” he said.

This comes four years after the BN government repealed the draconian law in 2011, as part of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s promise of political reform after assuming the top office in 2009.

The controversial act allowed the police to detain without trial, any individual suspected of threatening national security for 60 days, after which a detainee could remain under remand for another two years subject to the home minister’s approval.

“It is now clear that BN is determined to use the global terrorist threat as an excuse to reintroduce detention without trial in Malaysia,” Surendran said of the proposed new law.

“Existing laws such as the SOSMA 2012 [Security Offences (Special Measures) Act] are more than adequate to deal with any potential terrorist threat.”

Under Sosma, authorities are allowed to detain anyone for 28 days without being brought to court, which Surendran noted was greater than any comparable legislation in countries such as the United States, Australia or United Kingdom.

“Ironically, the above Western countries face vastly greater danger from terrorism than Malaysia,” he added.

Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) said that reviving an ISA-like law was the second “about-face” from Najib after he reneged on his repeated promises to abolish the Sedition Act.

“While not doubting the serious dangers of extremism and militancy, the solution will not be found in reviving an oppressive and antiquated law akin to the ISA that provides for wide and arbitrary powers to detain suspects indefinitely without recourse to due process and a fair trial,” said LFL executive director Eric Paulsen in a statement.

Instead, Putrajaya should look into the root causes of extremist and militant acts, and investigate the conditions that allow such ideologies to flourish and led Malaysians to the Middle East to fight alongside Isis and other groups, he said.

“The government should restructure the Special Branch and other internal security apparatus to target genuine security threats instead of being misused for political ends against legitimate dissent and the opposition.

“Detention without trial is simply no longer acceptable in this day and age, a grave violation of international law including the right to fair trial and due process,” Paulsen added. – January 26, 2015.