New national security Bill a tool for repression, global rights group says

Source: The Malay Mail Online

HRWlogoKUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 ― The Human Rights Watch (HRW) today joined the growing list of critics of Putrajaya’s new national security Bill, saying the proposed law puts such expansive powers in the hands of the prime minister and the local security forces that it creates a real risk of abuse.

In a statement, HRW asia division deputy director Phil Robertson urged Malaysians and their representatives in Parliament to urgently call for the withdrawal of the Bill that was tabled for the first reading on Tuesday and is scheduled for debate today.

“The Malaysian government’s proposed National Security Council bill is quite clearly a tool for repression,” he said.

“The law is far broader than can be justified by any real threat to Malaysia’s national security, and creates a real risk of abuse in the hands of Prime Minister Najib and his embattled government.

“It should be urgently withdrawn by the government or rejected by Parliament,” he added.

The National Security Council Bill 2015, which was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim on Tuesday, proposes to allow the National Security Council (NSC) to take command of the country’s security forces and impose strict policing of areas deemed to face security risks.

According to the Bill, the NSC’s jurisdiction takes effect once the prime minister designates a location as a “security area” — a status that is valid for six months at a time, subject to renewal by the prime minister.

Once the NSC takes over control of a security area, security forces will have the right to search or arrest without warrant any individual “found committing, alleged to have committed, or reasonably suspected of having committed any offence under written laws in the security area”.

The Bill also seeks to empower security forces to arrest without warrant and take action against those who do not abide by an evacuation order from a security area, and also carry out searches of any vehicle or premise within the security area without a warrant.

For operational purposes, the Bill would provide the NSC’s director-general the power to commandeer any land or building in the security area, and order the demolition of any vacant building that is suspected to be used for reasons “prejudicial to national security”.

“Given the incredible range of broad and abusive laws already being used by Prime Minister Najib and his government to arrest and harass government critics, the breadth of the bill’s language is truly frightening.

“The law would also establish new lows on impunity by security forces by protecting them from any legal proceedings for any actions taken ‘in good faith’ and impose a sweeping obligation of secrecy on all those involved with the council,” Robertson said.

Yesterday, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad criticised the Bill, saying it would confer such powers on the prime minister that it risks turning Malaysia into a dictatorship.

The former prime minister also said that the executive branch already wielded ample powers at the moment and agreed that the introduction of the law was regressive and a return to the days when Malaysia had been under colonial rule.

 

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