Government must fulfil pledge to abolish all oppressive laws

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The Malaysian Bar is astounded by Home Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement that the government has decided to retain the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) and the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca).

We are also dismayed at his statements that without Sosma, terrorists and criminals would be free to threaten our national security and that “things are also still under control with two other security acts, the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 and Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota)”.

Sosma and Poca are among the laws that the Pakatan Harapan government had described as “oppressive” and “tyrannical” in its election manifesto for the 2018 general election, which took place eight months ago. In that manifesto, it had pledged to revoke Poca and abolish the draconian provisions in Sosma.

The Malaysian Bar has, over the years, persistently and unequivocally called for the repeal of Sosma and Poca. These laws are notorious for having been abused in the past and, while they remain on the statute book, the potential for misuse — by any government, however well-intentioned — remains ever-present.

In our resolve to defend and preserve the harmony, peace and security that Malaysia enjoys, it is essential that the government does not enjoy carte blanche to deprive persons of their constitutional rights and civil liberties with impunity.

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At all times, the rule of law must be abided by, human rights must be respected and protected, and principles of natural justice must apply. Failing this, any assurances by the government in our “new Malaysia” would serve only to impart a false sense of security, as it is undeniable that oppressive laws can be used — and misused — so long as they are not repealed.

There are sufficient laws to address the threats of crime and terrorism without the government resorting to Sosma and Poca or any other authoritarian laws. If need be, existing laws can be amended or appropriate new laws enacted to ensure that national security is not compromised. Public trust and confidence in the government must not be eroded.

The Malaysian Bar calls upon the government to demonstrate full commitment to its election manifesto, by abolishing all oppressive laws and draconian legislative provisions — including Sosma and Poca — without further delay.

George Varughese is president of the Malaysian Bar.

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