Section 6 of Sosma is BN’s Watergate in the making

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It is clear that the Malaysian government in the name of fighting crime has introduced provisions which are both anti-democratic and anti-human rights, says Steven Sim.

Security-Offences-Act

The anti-democratic, anti-human rights encroachment into our legal system continues with the tabling of the amendments to the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, otherwise known as Sosma.

One of the amendments is Section 6(2)(a). Although nothing substantial to alter the meaning of the controversial Section 6 of Sosma, the amendments once again highlight the said provision, which provides the government power to among others, intercept, detain, and listen to any communications.

In other words it legitimises “phone tapping” by the government. There are at least five identifiable problems with this “phone tapping” provision:

1. Article 5 thrown out

Firstly, it is obvious that the authority is infringing into the privacy of citizens in the name of “threats”. This, and as acknowledged by Section 6(6), contravenes Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees rights to life and personal liberty.

2. Vague grounds for interception

Secondly, according to Section 6(1) the only grounds necessary for the government to intercept communication is that the Public Prosecutor considers it “likely to contain any information relating to the commission of a security offence” and the same grounds is repeated in 6(2).

Under Section 6(3), however, a police officer ranking not lower than a Superintendent can execute interception without first getting the consent of the Public Prosecutor in “urgent and sudden cases”.

Due to the vagueness and broadness of the ground for executing interception, this provision is surely open to abuse especially against political dissent. This is potentially Barisan Nasional’s Watergate in the making.

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3. Free hand for the government – no guidelines on interception

What is worse is that the Act does not provide any guidelines on the “interception”. That is to say, the government can legally “bug” any private communication using any method, including through trespassing to implement the bugging device, and there is no stipulated timeframe that such invasion of privacy is allowed.

4. Service providers roped in

If that is not enough, service providers such as telcos and internet service providers are compelled by Section 6(2)(a) – which is now being amended to give a wider scope of meaning – to cooperate in the act of interception.

5. Zero accountability on interception

And finally, Section 24 of Sosma exempts the police or any person from answering questions regarding the interception including its methods. This would definitely jeopardise the interests of the accused who is not able to challenge the authenticity of the evidence obtained through interception.

Conclusion: Fight crime with modern policing, not police state

It is clear that the Malaysian government in the name of fighting crime has introduced throughout the course of this month, provisions which are both anti-democratic and anti-human rights. It is my strong belief that modern crime can be fought with modern policing, not by turning Malaysia into a police state where the government has a free hand of surveillance into the private lives of citizens.

The government has so far refused to acknowledge the fact that our Royal Malaysian Police need reforms from organisational to integrity reforms to enable them to function better in this time and age against crime.

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Steven Sim is the Member of Parliament for Bukit Mertajam

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