IN recent weeks, the world has seen fatal bombings
in several countries — Turkey, Iraq, Somalia, Egypt and Nigeria — including an attempted bombing in Jakarta, Indonesia. Those executed took a heavy toll, and one especially heinous incident was a suicide bomber blowing himself up outside a football stadium in Istanbul,
Turkey. Twenty-nine people were killed, most of them policemen. While the perpetrator in that instance is not disclosed by the authorities, others are linked to known terrorists,
the Islamic State (IS) group or al-Qaeda. In Indonesia, those captured were said to be linked to IS.
That Malaysian members of this terror group exist here in
the country and in Syria and Iraq, naturally ring alarm
bells, especially since it is has happened before — the Movida nightclub bombing — the security threat is real. To be laid-back
or complacent about this threat is to create opportunities
for terrorists to gain strength. There are Malaysians who be-
lieve that the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) is unnecessarily draconian, but this is taking liberal values too far. In-
deed, democratic freedoms are worth defending, but when
they are being exploited by extremists to create instability and mayhem in the country, is it not better to firmly deal with the threat?
When the Internal Security
Act (ISA) was repealed, it was replaced by the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma). However, it did not take into account dealing with terrorists. POTA was promulgated
to allow for the reinstatement of ISA’s 60-day internment
without trial. Unlike the ISA though, POTA needs the approval
of the executive power of the Prevention of Terrorism
Board for the individual to be held for up to two years and
longer, based on hard evidence. Under ISA, this power resides
in the hands of the home minister alone, which was deemed
as easily abused. The difference between Sosma and POTA,
then, is obvious: the former is aimed at those who are
not considered terrorists but, nevertheless, threaten the country’s security. Without a doubt, POTA has a preemptive ele-
ment, important if it is to prevent acts of terrorism, such as
the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 200 and injured 209. To
allow terrorists to flourish and bomb the living daylights out of ordinary Malaysians is just not an option. Of course, one expects security forces to use these legal instruments judiciously to ensure peace and stability and avoid compromising the democratic freedoms of citizens. Malaysians who perpetually scream foul each time the authorities act are those whose intentions must be doubted.
The country is peaceful because of the police’s persistent vigilance and their effective intelligence. Lest we forget,
the interim period between the ISA repeal and the passing of
the Sosma bill saw a frightening increase in firearms violence
in the country. Agreed, ISA was too often an instrument of po-
litics and had to be done away with. Unfortunately, its repeal demonstrated that peace was a mere veneer easily disrupted
by the criminal lowlifes and terrorists. Sosma and POTA are, therefore, sorely needed.