29
Dec
15

Make no mistake – NSC Bill is a grab for absolute power

COMMENT The Senate (unsurprisingly) passed the National Security Council Bill 2015. This, despite senators from both sides of the political divide voicing a range of concerns about it. That did not stop the government from pushing the bill through without compromise.

Lawyers and activists across the nation have been warning for weeks of the dangers of the bill and how it violated the federal constitution and the sanctity of the rule of law. It would have been in the interests of the nation to have had further discussion on it.

Yet the government remained stubborn and did not even show a willingness to listen to reason. What we had was a government acting in haste, willing to overlook clear constitutional and legal impediments to the bill, and taking the attitude that they know best.

This should have triggered alarm bells. It was therefore irresponsible to say the least, to deliver them this bill, unaltered.

Make no mistake. This bill gives absolute power to the prime minister to declare an area a ‘security area’. Once an area has been declared a ‘security area’ it becomes a legal black hole.

Anything can be done there by the security forces including arrest, seizure of property and even killing, without any of the usual legal safeguards.

“It is absolutely untrue that the prime minister has absolute power” thundered the bill’s proponents. But the clear wording of the bill contradicts them. They are set out below for the readers to judge for themselves.

Section 18(1) provides: Where the council advises the prime minister that the security in any area in Malaysia is seriously disturbed or threatened by any person, matter or thing which causes or is likely to cause serious harm to the people, or serious harm to the territories, economy, national key infrastructure of Malaysia or any other interest of Malaysia, and requires immediate national response, the prime minister may, if he considers it to be necessary in the interest of national security, declare in writing the area as a security area.

Section 18(3) provides: A declaration made under subsection (1) shall, but without prejudice to anything previously done by virtue of the declaration, cease to have effect upon the expiration of six months from the date it comes into force.

But Section 18(4) goes on to say: Notwithstanding subsection (3), a declaration in force may be renewed by the prime minister from time to time for such period, not exceeding six months at a time, as may be specified in the declaration.

The upshot of these three provisions is that the council’s role is merely advisory, and the prime minister is not obliged to take their advice. Furthermore, the prime minister, without reference to the council, may in his sole discretion extend the declaration ad infinitum.

If this is not absolute power in the hands of the prime minister, then what is? If one studies the bill carefully, it appears to provide ‘checks and balances’, but on closer scrutiny we can see they are anything but that.

Surely giving one person all powers over security with no checks and balances does not enhance security but could in fact compromise security.

The claim that there is parliamentary oversight is equally flawed as clause 18(6) only requires that the declaration be laid (not debated) before Parliament, as soon as possible after it has been made (which is any time).

…more
Make no mistake – NSC Bill is a grab for absolute power
Ambiga Sreenevasan
24/12/15 – malaysiakini

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