It is worrying and troubling that the BN government has chosen to return to the days of darkness and abuse.
This is what it means when the government tabled the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (PCA) on Wednesday, 23 September 2013.
On the one hand, the BN government had repealed the Emergency Ordinance (EO) and Internal Security Act (ISA) with the Prime Minister guaranteeing over national television that there would be no more preventive detention.
On the other hand, this hypocritical government is now tabling laws that will bring back with a vengeance the same detention without trial along with the ouster of the court’s jurisdiction over this detention.
Instead of the Home Minister dishing out the detention order as was the practice in the past, now that infamous order will be imposed by a three-member Prevention of Crime Board for a period of two years. This can be renewed for further periods of two years in the interest of public order, public security or prevention of crime.
Whenever the government claims to act in the public interest, we have to take it with a pinch of salt. Inevitably, it has always meant to be in the interest of the ruling party to strengthen its grip on power and safeguard its position. It is the same ploy that they use to perpetuate their rule.
It doesn’t mean that, when this board is headed by a judge from the High Court, Court of Appeal or Federal Court, justice will be assured or dispensed honestly or with integrity.. We have witnessed some startling judgments by some of these very judges that made no sense – even though judges are meant to be the guardians of justice.
We have been thoroughly disillusioned by the judgments of the courts concerning the political controversies involving the Barisan Nasional government. The recent election petitions and the judicial ruling in the Perak state’s shameful toppling of an elected government are cases that shattered our confidence in the judiciary.
Now, the question arises, who will be the other two members in the three-member board? Will they be some discredited politicians, who are usually rewarded with appointments to the Senate or as ambassadors – such appointments never fail to shock the nation into disbelief.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and others of his ilk can blatantly claim that the PCA and the ISA are not the same but the characteristics of the PCA are based on denial and deception just like the ISA.
Like the ISA, the PCA provides for detention without trial. Like the ISA, this detention can be renewed after the expiry of the initial two-year term.
Like the ISA, a PCA detention cannot be challenged in a court of law. There is no judicial review even if the detention is wrong and is a product of bad faith. The Act specifically bars a judicial review of any of the board’s actions or any judicial decision based on the board’s discretionary powers.
A suspect and witnesses appearing before the board for the inquiry are denied access to counsel and legal representation. It is crucial that they be represented by their lawyers so that their human rights are protected. This would imply that the authorities are hell-bent on putting away people who are seen as a challenge to their authority.
It is totally unacceptable that a person is also denied legal representation when he is quizzed in detention by the inquiry officer. It is no secret that people who are questioned in detention are treated savagely and without any regard for their rights.
It is appalling that the Act provides for the board, inquiry officers or any public servant to withhold information in the public interest or for the safety of a witness, family or associates. In other words, any false information can be accepted without being refuted or challenged. This is most unfair and unjust and can easily lead to manipulation and abuse.
It is no comfort that the Act has a provision for the Home Minister to submit an annual report on all activities related to detention orders to Parliament. What fate will such a report face in spite of this assurance? We recall there was a similar provision in the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act – but how many times were Suhakam reports formally tabled in Parliament and debated? What was the outcome of these reports? Based on how Suhakam’s reports were dealt with in Parliament, we have no faith that this similar provision in the PCA is meant to act as a check and balance against abuse.
There is little doubt that the PCA is politically motivated to curb the ascendancy of Pakatan Rakyat in Malaysian politics. It is the fear that it will be replaced in GE14 that is driving the BN to arm itself with this corrosive law to destroy the PR’s chances and hold on to power at all costs.
Malaysians can see through this evil plot – you bet!