Malaysia Must Unite to Stop the National Security Council Bill 2015

The National Security Council (NSC) Bill 2015 that was rushed through Dewan Rakyat on 3 December represents an unprecedented threat to what remains of parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.

The law aims to centralise military, policing and emergency powers under the Prime Minister. Not only does it appropriate powers held by the Defence and Home Ministers, it also effectively grants the Prime Minister similar powers under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to effectively declare an emergency even though the word “emergency” is not used in the NSC Bill.

The tabling of this law represents an extremely dangerous step for Malaysia as it concentrates extraordinary powers within the hands of a single member of the Executive arm of Government. Mechanisms of check and balance normally found within parliamentary democracies are either absent or severely compromised in Malaysia.

No government should have absolute and unfettered powers. Concentration of power leads to the temptation for abuse, particularly in times of political crisis. We have seen Malaysia slide from parliamentary democracy towards an uneasy electoral authoritarianism after past Prime Ministers began to lose their grip on power and seized more powers for themselves. The NSC Bill represents a quantum leap towards a dictatorship and a military-police state.

Assurances that the legislation will not be abused give little comfort. This is because the authorities have used the harsh pre-trial detention powers provided under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) despite similar assurances. For example, Khairuddin Abu Hassan and his lawyer Matthias Chang were detained and charged for ‘attempted sabotage’ and tried under SOSMA.

There is thus ample cause for concern that similar abuses could be perpetrated via the sweeping powers of the NSC Bill, which allows the Prime Minister to declare security areas. Security areas allow authorities warrantless arrest, search and seizure, and imposition of curfews. It also empowers them to take possession of land, buildings and moveable property, and to dispense with inquests following use of lethal force.

Dewan Rakyat failed Malaysia by passing the NSC Bill on 3 December after less than a day of debate.

Malaysia has sufficient existing legislation to address national security issues. In addition, the government has brought in controversial legislation such as SOSMA and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which provide powers that violate international human rights standards. These are now joined by the NSC Bill which represents an extremely excessive set of additional measures that depart from international norms.

The government has tried to draw a comparison between the Malaysian NSC Bill and the British National Security Council chaired by the British Prime Minister. It is important to note that the British NSC is merely a Cabinet Committee for the formulation of policy. It is not an enabling legislation with draconian powers like the Malaysian NSC Bill.

The Malaysian and the British NSCs are only similar in name, they are vastly different in their powers and implications for the health of parliamentary democracy in their respective countries.

As the Minister who tabled the NSC Bill, Shahidan Kassim has the power to withdraw it. His next chance to do so is at the Dewan Negara, which began its sitting yesterday. The members of the Dewan Negara can also exercise their constitutional powers to either reject the Bill or amend it to remove its most dangerous features.

The NSC Bill should also be withdrawn for the lack of consultation with the Conference of Rulers as the Bill dilutes emergency powers currently exclusive to the Duli Yang Maha Mulia Yang Di-Pertuan Agong.

In the very last instance, the D.Y.M.M. Y.D.P. Agong can also refuse his assent to the NSC Bill. While constitutional amendments prevent him from rejecting it outright, his refusal to assent would send a clear signal that the Bill is fundamentally flawed and should be done away with.

The fate of Malaysia’s fragile democracy rests on the men and women of the Dewan Negara, the Conference of Rulers, and the D.Y.M.M. Y.D.P. Agong. It also rests on every single member of the public to call upon these persons to do the right thing and reject the dictatorship disaster within the NSC Bill.

We must withdraw the NSC Bill.

…more
Malaysia Must Unite to Stop the National Security Council Bill 2015
8 December 2015 – LFL

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