THE management of national security through the application of laws labelled as “draconian” is of paramount importance and should not be taken for granted by citizens.
This is crucial to enable the government to protect the country against new terrorism, which is networked and transborder in nature, and has the capability of launching massive attacks on properties, critical infrastructure and the people by using lethal weapons.
Based on United States’ documents on national security and strategy in the post-911 era, as well as an analysis by Hilal Khashan on “The New World Order and the Tempo of Militant Islam” (1997), new terrorism has many definitions.
New terrorism is a structured ideological struggle which is religious-based and politically inspired, having a clear interest in owning and using modern weapons, especially weapons of mass destruction, and capable of launching attacks of immeasurable effects on human lives and properties.
The Bali bombing on Oct 12, 2002, which killed 202 people, the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta on Sept 9, 2004 and the bombing of an international hotel also in Jakarta on July 17, 2009 are a few examples of new terrorism in Southeast Asia.
A study on “Daesh in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines” by Thomas Koruth Samuel (1977), on the other hand, stated that “from Mosul to Paris, Ramadi to London, Yemen to the US, Jakarta and most recently Brussels, the world has not been spared the cruel touch of the Islamic State or Daesh”.
It added that “their ability to attract thousands, men and women, young and old, educated and illiterate from various parts of the world, to join a cause known primarily for its beheading, suicide bombing and stabbing is a testimony of not only their barbarity and cruelty but also of their power to attract, persuade, radicalise and recruit”.
It also said “it is unfortunate that the Southeast Asian region, far removed from the civil war in Syria and the turmoil in Iraq, has not been spared”.
As such, several arrests of Daesh elements in parts of Malaysia in the past few years and the recent detention of several individuals for their alleged links to a defunct foreign-based terror group should not be viewed with prejudice.
Instead, we should applaud the efficiency of the Malaysian police in their efforts to eradicate terrorism and extremism in the interests of the people.
It is also unwise to perceive laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) 2012 and the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA) to prevent the spread of terrorism or extremism in Malaysia as “draconian”.
Such laws are enacted in accordance with the spirit of Article 149 of the Federal Constitution, which focuses on “legislation against subversion, organised violence, and acts and crimes prejudicial to the public ...”
These laws have similarities with the Internal Security Act of Singapore, which gives “the executive power to enforce preventive detention, prevent subversion, suppress organised violence against persons and property, and do other things incidental to the internal security of Singapore”.
They also share similar principles with several laws in the United Kingdom, such as the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2019, the Terrorism Act 2000 (Enforcement in Different Parts of the United Kingdom) Order 2018 and the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2017.
In this context, even the US has its preventive law on terrorism, particularly the Patriot Act, which was enacted “shortly after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US giving law enforcement agencies broad powers to investigate, indict and bring terrorists to justice”.
The Singaporeans, British and Americans do not conduct persistent protests against the above legislation, unlike some Malaysians, who ironically even mobilised civil society to oppose the country’s preventive laws.
The citizens of those countries are mostly supportive of such preventive legal instruments because they understand the broader objective of the laws.
They also do not ridicule the laws because they realise their impact and implications on the survival of their countries and their own selves.
As such, although Pakatan Harapan promised in its election manifesto that preventive laws would be abolished, is such an abolishment really critical if terrorist elements with fatal capabilities are still lurking, ready to harm Malaysians?
In consideration of the above narrative, the PH administration, therefore, should remain firm and resolute in its effort to eradicate extremism and terrorism through the use of laws now labelled as “draconian”.
The writer is an analyst of strategic and security issues, and was a member of parliament for Parit Sulong, Johor, 1990-2003.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times