NSC Bill – security for whom?

National security and security areas in Malaysia: a realm of endless possibilities

The National Security Council Bill 2015 was bulldozed through the Dewan Rakyat (Malaysia’s House of Representatives) on Dec 3, 2015. If passed through the Senate and assented by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the law “gives excessive powers to the Prime Minister and endangers civil liberties”, according to Parti Keadilan Rakyat MP N. Surendran. The President of the Malaysian Bar Council Steven Thiru notes that it may place Malaysia at the cusp of the “abyss of authoritarian rule”.

The Bill, which was unveiled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim barely a couple of days before it was tabled and voted on at the Dewan Rakyat, could possibly allow the National Security Council (the NSC) to exercise similar powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution, including emergency-like powers of arrest, detention, search and seizure, the use of violence and deadly force, order of curfew and control of movement.

This Bill gains its legitimacy from the notion it is for national security reasons although these reasons are left as a vague.

This then begs the question – security for whom? Is the term “national security” really people-centric, taking into account the safety of the people first, ensuring their well-being at the expense of their own personal freedoms that they have given up willingly through a democratic process?

Or does the term national security actually mean a safeguard for the ruling party to accumulate political power and to protect itself from political adversaries inside and outside its territory?

It is alarming that the term “national security” is not defined in the Bill, leaving it subject to interpretation. When Shahidan Kassim was asked of the national security threats and to substantiate his claims of these threats, he took the stance that the act of revealing the details of these security threats would then undermine national security.

It would appear that the first step to protecting national security is to ensure as little information of these threats are revealed to the public as possible. We must also be mindful that any attempt to criticise these efforts of maintaining national security or the act of bringing shortcomings of these initiatives to light may also make one a “security threat”.

Although the government defends the Bill by stating that any decisions made by the NSC would involve the entire council – including the Prime Minister and his deputy as Chairman and Deputy Chairman respectively, the Ministers of Defence, Home Affairs and Communications and Multimedia, the Chief Secrety to the Government, Chief of the Defence Forces and the Inspector General of Police – it must be noted that those in these roles are traditionally handpicked by, and answerable to, the Prime Minister.

The NSC does not appear to come with an accountability mechanism, both within and outside of the council.

The Bill states in plain language that the Prime Minister has the power to declare any area as a security area and there is no limit, recourse or avenue to review these decisions once they are made. He – the sitting Prime Minister – merely has to meet the vague, ill-defined standards set in the Bill, which will also allow him to extend the period of declaration at his own discretion.

National security and security areas in Malaysia: a realm of endless possibilities
By Michelle Yesudas
6/12/15 – sg.news.yahoo.com


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