A half-step forward!

1

Parliament today voted to pass the Security Offences Bill to replace the ISA. Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj describes what happened in the House.

Photo courtesy of Malaysia Today

At 3.45pm today, I unpinned my ISA badge for the last time! I have been wearing such a badge since 2001, ever since the ISA was used to detain the reformasi activists.

At 3.45pm today, the Malaysian Dewan Rakyat voted to pass the Security Offences Bill 2012. Section 32(1) states “The Internal Security Act 1960 (Act 82) is repealed.” At long last, after several decades of campaigning, the Malaysian people have managed to abolish a draconian piece of legislation.

However there wasn’t any jubilation among the Parliamentarians from the opposition. For the law that was passed today has many draconian features itself, and our efforts to ameliorate these all came to naught! YB Sivarasa attempted to send the Act to a bi-partisan Select Parliamentary Committee, but that was voted down by the House. Several opposition members pointed out the glaring weaknesses in the new legislation, but that seemed to make little impression on the BN majority.

As a last ditch effort I proposed amendments to five clauses of the Security Offences Bill at the committee stage. Let me give an example:

Clause 30 of the Act reads:

(3) When the Public Prosecutor files a notice of appeal against the acquittal of the accused by the High Court, the Public Prosecutor may apply to the trial court for an order for the accused to be remanded pending disposal of the appeal.

(4) Upon application by the Public Prosecutor under subsection (3), the court shall commit the accused to prison pending the disposal of the appeal.

(5) If the appeal of the Public Prosecutor to the Appeal Court is dismissed and the order of acquittal is affirmed, the Public Prosecutor may apply to the trial court for an order for the accused to be remanded pending a notice of appeal to be filed to a higher court.

(6) Upon application by the Public Prosecutor under subsection (5), the court shall remand the accused in prison pending the filing of the notice of appeal.

(7) An accused committed to prison under this section shall be held until all appeals are disposed of.”

I proposed amendments to several subsections of clause 30 along the following lines:

30(4) Upon application by the Public Prosecutor under subsection (3), the court can order the accused to be remanded pending the disposal of the appeal, if the Court is satisfied that measures such as electronic surveillance, confiscation of the accused’s passport, posting of bail and a requirement for the accused to present (himself) to a police station regularly are not sufficient to curtail the risk of security offences by the accused.

However, this and all the other amendments that I proposed were all voted down by the BN majority. At one point I told them that we were just a rubber-stamp parliament only to be rewarded with some growls from their side of the hall!

So what we witnessed today is a half-step forward for human rights in Malaysia. A terrible law, the ISA, has been replaced by a bad law. Well, whoever said that the walk towards a more open and democratic society would be a breeze? Power and privilege will hold on to their weapons of control for as long as possible.

But lets not make any mistake about this – this is a significant victory for the anti-ISA movement and for the people of Malaysia. Progress has been achieved, and it is the fruit of years of campaigning and effort. To all the people who played a role in the anti-ISA campaign over the past 25 years – well done! We have succeeded in opening the democratic space in Malaysia a little bit more! Lets take heart from this partial victory and continue our efforts to build a better society!

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, an Aliran member, is the Member of Parliament for Sungai Siput

The following were the amendments moved by Dr Jeyakumar:

Clause 3

The term “security offences” should be defined as any attempt to use or threaten to use violence against persons or property.

The term “sensitive information” should be defined as any documents, information or material that has been classified as “secret” or “confidential” by any Minister or Chieh Minister.

Clause 4 (5)

Clause 4 (5) should be replaced as follows: The police may apply to a Sessions Court Judge if the police wish to detain any suspect for more than 24 hours. A Sessions Court Judge can permit the detention of a suspect for a period of 14 days as permitted under Section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Clause 13

Clause 13 should be replaced as follows: Bail may be granted by the Court for a person charged for a Security Offence with or without electronic surveillance devices if the Judge is satisfied that the risk of terrorism can be curtailled by measures such as electronic surveillance, confiscation of the suspect’s passport, a bail deposit and a requirement for the suspect to report to the police at specified regular intervals.

Clause 18

Clause 18 should be dropped.

Clause 30

Clause 30(2) should be replaced with “upon application by the Public Prosecutor under subsection (1), the Court can order the accused to be remanded pending filing of the notice of appeal, if the Court is satisfied that measures such as electronic surveillance, confiscation of the accused’s passport, posting of bail and a requirement for the accused to present himself to a police station regularly, are not sufficient to curtail the risk of terrorist acts by the accused.”

Clause 30(4) should be replaced with “upon application by the Public Prosecutor under subsection (3), the Court can order the accused to be remanded pending disposal of the Appeal, if the Court is satisfied that measures such as electronic surveillance, confiscation of the accused’s passport, posting of bail and a requirement for the accused to present himself to a police station regularly, are not sufficient to curtail the risk of terrorist acts by the accused.”

Clauses 30 (5), (6) and (7) to be dropped.

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najib manaukau
18 Apr 2012 8.39am

Don’t be too happy with Najib is doing in anyway or any form, he is repealing different laws, just like some shop keepers I know off, replacing new tags when the old use by tags dates expire.
Just look at his past records, since he became the P.M., he hasn’t really done anything to move forward let alone to reform. Why he is he replacing them with new legislations ?
He is doing a few things now, just before the GE, trying to win votes that os all. It is all old wine in new bottles, wait till after the GE, when he gets reelected. All the deceptions will be revealed ? Better still can a leopard change it’s spots ?