PREPAREDNESS A MUST: Terrorism poses same threats as communism did, says PM
KUALA LUMPUR: LIKENING the threat posed by terrorism to that which the country faced during the Emergency, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday Malaysia must be prepared to face any challenge to democracy.
He said such post-communist threats to democracy were, however, more complex and sophisticated these days.
"The country not only needs a shield, which is the people's political maturity, but also a weapon in the form of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill.
"While the two ideologies (communism and terrorism) are different, they have the same goals, which is to change the administration through violence and unconstitutional means," he said when tabling the bill for second reading yesterday.
Najib said cases under the new law, when it is eventually passed, would be done in the High Courts.
"Taking into consideration the seriousness of the security offences, a proposal is made to set up a special court to hear security cases. Experienced judges will be given the exposure on all security offences, as well as the provisions of the law which will be used."
In drawing up the bill, the prime minister said, the government was given the flexibility to formulate laws that were inconsistent with Article 5 on individual rights, Article 9 on prohibition of banishment and freedom of movement, Article 10 on freedom of speech, assembly and association and Article 13 regarding rights to own property.
"Even though the bill will result in the repeal of the ISA (Internal Security Act), it will not affect those currently under detention, except if the detention order is cancelled by the home minister."
Najib also clarified one section of the proposed law, involving the threat to parliamentary democracy.
He said the definition for this was "activities committed by an individual or group with an objective to overthrow or weaken the country's political ideology through violence and not based on the Constitution".
Najib added that any changes to the country's political ideology must be done via the ballot box.
The government, he said, had put in place seven safeguards in view of the fact that the police could still detain individuals for investigation purposes that were beyond the usual practices.
Among the safeguards is, those arrested are free to make a habeas corpus application in court and can challenge the reason for their detention and detention procedures.
"The government and authorities will respect whatever decision made by the courts. If one is freed, he will not be re-arrested for investigation on the same offence."
On the "sunset clause", which entails a maximum 28-day detention without trial, Najib said the clause would be reviewed every five years and shall cease to have effect unless, upon review, a resolution is passed by both Houses to extend the period of the provision's operation.
He said there would be no detention for more than 28 days because, within the period, an investigation officer must submit his or her findings to the prosecution, who must decide whether the detainee would be charged or released.
The prime minister also said when a person was arrested and detained under Section 4 of the proposed act, police would have to immediately notify the next-of-kin.
And, the person would be allowed to invoke his right to an attorney within 48 hours.
"As one of the safeguards when the act is enforced, the government will form a committee to review the whole act from time to time. It will also be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the act, and will forward recommendations for improvements.
"The last and biggest safeguard, we must remember, is that the rakyat have the power to choose who to form the government every five years... that is the core foundation of a parliamentary democracy system."