Posts Tagged ‘Abolish ISA


Anti-terror law POTA a shameless revival of repressive ISA

Preventive detention violates Malaysia’s rights commitments — Steven Thiru

APRIL 5 — The Malaysian Bar abhors detention without trial, and views the Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2015 (commonly referred to as “POTA”), which was recently introduced in the Dewan Rakyat, as a repressive law that is an affront to the rule of law and repugnant to the principles of natural justice.

It is a shameless revival of the Internal Security Act 1960 (“ISA”), Restricted Residence Act 1933, Banishment Act 1959 and Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969, all of which were previously repealed or revoked in 2011 or 2012. Moreover, many of the oft-touted goals of the Government Transformation Programme, of removing old and archaic laws, have been comprehensively reversed because POTA, like the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (“POCA”) that was extensively amended and expanded in 2014, allows for detention without trial and restricted residence or internal banishment.

POTA is purportedly directed at persons who are “engaged in the commission or support of terrorist acts involving listed terrorist organisations in a foreign country or any part of a foreign country”. However, because words like “engaged”, “commission”, “support” and “involving” have not been defined in POTA, the reach of the legislation is extremely wide and lends itself to abuse. It opens up the possibility that almost anyone could be targeted under POTA. We have seen how ISA, which had been meant to deal with the communist insurgency, was used to stifle political dissent and imprison political opponents.

The exclusion of “political belief and political activity” as a ground for detention under POTA is also false comfort. The Malaysian Bar is concerned that organisations not registered as political parties under the Societies Act 1966, or not registered under the Societies Act 1966 at all, may be subjected to the wide powers of POTA. We also note that in the past, politicians and political activists had been detained under the ISA for activities that were nonetheless viewed as prejudicial to national security or public order.

Under POTA, a person can initially be remanded for investigative detention for a maximum of 60 days. A Magistrate has no discretion to refuse a request by the police for remand, and is reduced to a rubber stamp. Further, there is no provision for the person remanded to be informed of the grounds of arrest, nor is there any guarantee that legal representation will be permitted. This is because the police are prone to applying the exclusion under section 28A(8) of the Criminal Procedure Code to deny access to legal representation. Moreover, it is to be noted that POTA allows for a Sessions Court Judge to order that an accused person be attached with an electronic monitoring device upon the application of the Public Prosecutor. However, the Sessions Court Judge has no discretion at all in the matter. Thus, like the Magistrates’ Court in respect of investigative detention, the Sessions Court has also been made a mere rubber stamp.

POTA also confers draconian powers on the Inquiry Officer — who is not expressly defined in POTA — tasked with investigating the allegations against the accused person and presenting the evidence to the Prevention of Terrorism Board (“POTB”). In this regard the normal rules of evidence and criminal procedure are excluded, and the Inquiry Officer may procure evidence by any means. The Inquiry Officer then presents his/her report to POTB and there is no provision for POTB to inquire into the report or require further investigation. Moreover, an accused person is not legally represented before POTB. POTB has extensive powers — it may grant a detention order of up to two years or a restricted residence order of up to five years. These periods of detention or restricted residence may be subsequently renewed for an indeterminate period. These orders are to be made by POTB without due process, inasmuch as the accused person is denied the right to make any legal representation to POTB.

Next, the argument that POTA cannot be compared with ISA because it is no longer the Minister of Home Affairs who decides on the detention or restriction order, is specious. Members of the POTB are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (but, following convention, upon the advice of the Government) and can be dismissed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at any time. This absence of security of tenure undermines whatever independence POTB purports to have. Only the Chairman is required to have legal experience, and there is no provision that he or she must be, or must be qualified to be, a Judge.

Preventive detention violates Malaysia’s rights commitments — Steven Thiru
April 5, 2015 – Malay Mail Online

New anti-terror law a giant step backwards, says global human rights body

A global human rights body has criticised the passing of a new anti-terrorism law, saying that it fears government agents can now use the threat of indefinite detention that is in the law to quash dissent.

Human Rights Watch said the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota) has re-opened the “Pandora’s Box for politically motivated, abusive state actions” that had been a feature when Putrajaya used the former Internal Security Act (ISA).

“It fundamentally calls into question the government’s commitment to basic rights that are critical to the rule of law in a functioning democracy,” said Phil Robertson, the group’s Asia division deputy director, in a statement today.

The Pota was passed today after a lengthy debate in the Dewan Rakyat that stretched until 2.25am, as opposition politicians attempted to defeat the bill which brings back detention without trial.

Its critics fear that the law could be used against legitimate political activists, which is what happened when previous Barisan Nasional administrations used the ISA, which was revoked in 2012.

Like the defunct security act, the Pota empowers authorities to detain suspects without trial and disallow judicial reviews on such decisions by a Prevention of Terrorism Board.

Suspects can be first detained a maximum of 59 days (including the initial remand period), before being brought to the board, which can then order further detention of up to two years.

Following this, the detention period can be renewed if the board decides there are reasonable grounds. It can also direct a person to be set free if it deemed necessary.

The bill does not allow any judicial review in any court, noting that no court shall have jurisdiction over decisions by the board in its discretionary power.

“By stripping accused persons of the right to trial in a court, access to legal counsel, and other legal protections if they are accused under the very broad provisions of this law, the government is continuing its slide into rights-abusing rule,” Robertson said. – April 7, 2015.

New anti-terror law a giant step backwards, says global human rights body
7 April 2015 – TMI

Pota will fail, won’t deal with root cause of terror, says Saifuddin

A widely respected moderate Umno leader has criticised Putrajaya’s new Prevention of Terrorism Act or Pota, saying it will not deal with the root cause of Malaysians’ involvement in militant groups.

Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMM) head, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said similar laws in the past such as the Internal Security Act 1948 (ISA), were also unable to curb the rise of militant groups.

“The rational for Pota is weak”, Saifuddin said, and added that ISA failed to prevent the rise of Al-Maunah, a militant group that seized weapons from an army camp in Perak in 2000.

Similarly, the United States’ own Patriot Act did not prevent the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis), Saifuddin told The Malaysian Insider.

“Preventive paradigm is a very attractive preposition. But, unfortunately, it has shown that it cannot always prevent violent extremism”.

Saifuddin said that present laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, or Sosma, were enough.

The Najib administration has tabled the Pota bill in Parliament, arguing that more stringent measures are needed to deal with Malaysians joining terror groups. Lawmakers are set to debate and pass Pota in the next few days.

Saifuddin is the latest to join those against Pota, including the Bar Council which yesterday urged the bill to be withdrawn.

The bill comes as the Home Ministry announced on March 31 that 75 people were arrested for links to Isis.

Critics said it is similar to the ISA which was repealed in 2011, in that it provides for detention without trial.

Suspects can be first detained a maximum of 59 days (including the initial remand period), before being brought to the Prevention of Terrorism Board, which can then order further detention of up to two years.

Pota will fail, won’t deal with root cause of terror, says Saifuddin
6 April 2015 – TMI


Reform gives way to repression

The May 2013 elections marked an end to progress on rights in Malaysia, says Human Rights Watch.

Malaysia’s government backtracked significantly on human rights after the May 2013 elections returned the ruling coalition to power with a significantly smaller majority, Human Rights Watch said yesterday in its World Report 2014.

The passage of new repressive laws, arrests of opposition activists and greater repression of political speech marked the apparent end to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s proclaimed reform agenda.

“Malaysia in 2013 was marked by a ‘tale of two Najibs’ – promising legal reforms before the election and restoring repressive laws after it,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Since May the government has cracked down on basic rights, curtailed free speech, and charged activists for organising peaceful protests.”

In the 667-page world report, its 24th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. Syria’s widespread killings of civilians elicited horror but few steps by world leaders to stop it, Human Rights Watch said.

A reinvigorated doctrine of “responsibility to protect” seems to have prevented some mass atrocities in Africa. Majorities in power in Egypt and other countries have suppressed dissent and minority rights. And Edward Snowden’s revelations about US surveillance programs reverberated around the globe.

Previous progress on human rights was reversed by the passage of repressive new legislation, Human Rights Watch said. The amended Prevention of Crime Act, enacted in October, allows administrative detention without trial and limited grounds for appeal, restoring some of the abusive practices that had been in the recently abolished Internal Security Act and Emergency Ordinance.

Malaysia’s government continued to bring dubious criminal charges against its political opponents, Human Rights Watch said. The authorities pursued an appeal, extending the politically motivated prosecution of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on trumped-up “sodomy” charges.

Prominent opposition and civil society activists are now awaiting trial for violating the Sedition Act, an abusive law that Najib had previously said would be revoked.

At least 43 people await charges on violating notice provisions of the Peaceful Assembly Act connected to opposition Black 505’s post-election rallies, ensuring trials will continue through much of 2014.

Suaram and other human rights groups faced hostile investigations and unsubstantiated accusations by the government-controlled media.

Reform gives way to repression
22 January 2014 – Aliran


March ISA repeal a ‘cop out’, say Pakatan MPs

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s March deadline to abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA) is a “cop out” given the likelihood that he will call snap polls soon after Budget 2012 is passed, say opposition lawmakers.

PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar said the prime minister’s decision to defer scrapping the law when elections could be called as early as January showed that he was insincere about the reforms he announced just over two weeks ago.

“I did harbour some hope at the beginning… but again, he hasn’t been forthcoming in the delivery of his promises,” she told The Malaysian Insider, saying that this amounted to a “cop out”.

The Lembah Pantai MP said there was no excuse for delaying the ISA repeal given that Najib himself made the decision, chiding the prime minister for not already having a draft to present to Parliament.

She urged the Najib to look up previous proposals — including the Emergency Revocation Bill that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) tried to table in April — to speed up the law reform process.

“If the Attorney-General cannot do the job, I would invite the prime minister to take whatever is there and just get the job done,” Nurul Izzah said.

DAP international secretary Liew Chin Tong said it would be “extremely unwise” of Najib to call a general election before he repeals the ISA as that would damage what remains of his credibility.

He stressed that the public was keen on actions, not words, and warned Najib he ran the risk of repeating former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s mistakes if he did not deliver quickly.

Abdullah, led Barisan Nasional (BN) to its worst-ever rout in Election 2008 — it was the first time since 1969 that the ruling coalition had failed to secure a two-thirds parliamentary majority — after the public turned on him for failing to deliver on promised reforms.

“If he wants to call elections, he’d better push through the ISA (repeal) in this Parliament session. Otherwise people are going to take a very cynical view,” Liew said.

Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said he would like to see reforms take place before Najib seeks a fresh mandate but pointed out there was no need for any replacement to the ISA.

“Malaysia doesn’t need any detention-without-trial laws because it has already effectively strengthened its legislative provisions to take into account, and deal with, the threat of terrorism,” he said.

Lim said it was therefore disappointing that the government was contemplating two new laws to deal with terrorism and subversion but stressed that the Bar should be consulted on any replacement legislation.

March ISA repeal a ‘cop out’, say Pakatan MPs
October 03, 2011 – MI


Najib and Malaysia’s Civil Liberties

Seemingly dramatic changes may not be very dramatic but very political

The announcement Thursday of changes to Malaysian civil liberty laws appears to be a major coup for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, putting the opposition on the back foot by taking away long-standing demands for expanded civil freedoms that were potent campaign tools.

Much, however, depends on what replaces the laws. There is considerable scope for political theater and not much more in a campaign year, especially if, as expected, the replacements are modeled on US or UK laws, neither of which are particularly liberal despite the perception of liberal democracy in both countries.

National elections are expected in the first quarter of 2012, perhaps in March during school holidays when schools can be used as polling stations. The apparent changes need to be seen in the context of the elections, Najib’s rhetoric about freedom of expression to the contrary. There appears to be no move to abandon either the Sedition Act or the Official Secrets Act, for instance, which are routinely used against opposition figures and bloggers and journalists.

The reforms were announced by Najib on television Thursday night. They include abolition of the colonial-era Internal Security Act, which allows for indefinite detention of suspects, as well as the repeal of the Emergency Ordinance allowing for detention without charge for two years. Another provision does away with the annual renewal of press and publication permits. Laws governing right of assembly are to be reviewed “to bring Malaysia into line with international standards” while ensuring that police retain power to prevent violence, he said.

“They will formulate other laws,” an UMNO source told Asia Sentinel. “Other countries have provisions for detention without trial. Since the ISA has been stigmatized as draconian, they can just get another law. The model they will take from America’s anti-terrorism law. The UK also has a new law for detention without trial.”

The US’s Patriot Act on which Najib may model his new laws was jammed through the US Congress amid hysteria surrounding the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York and the attack on the Pentagon in Washington, DC on September 11, 2001. The other possibility is that the security law would be modeled on the United Kingdom’s law, which allows for detention for 28 days without charge for terrorism suspects. In neither case are the laws particularly liberal, nor would they expand civil liberties by much.

The US’s Patriot Act has been under fire from civil libertarians since it was passed, as it vastly expanded police powers, creating new crimes, new penalties and new procedures for use against suspected domestic and international terrorists. It authorized the indefinite detention of immigrants, allowed for searches of homes and businesses without the owner’s or occupant’s permission or knowledge, expanded FBI authority for warrantless wiretaps and expanded access to business records, even including the authority to see what books suspects checked out of public libraries. Although the law has been amended slightly, it has been allowed to stand largely in its original form.

There is probably one important change. The new laws will take powers away from the Home Ministry and its feared Special Branch police and vest them in the judiciary, as they are in the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries. That means law enforcement officials presumably would now have to seek the permission of the judiciary before conducting arrests or surveillance. Malaysia has a notoriously compliant judiciary, which bends to the wishes of the government and which means that probably there will be little change for now. But should elections deliver up a future government that appoints an independent judiciary, the changes could be beneficial.

Najib and Malaysia’s Civil Liberties
16 SEPTEMBER 2011 – Asia Sentinel


Reforms – Crumbs for the chickens

Najib Abdul Razak must take Malaysians for very dumb clucks indeed if he thinks that contemptuously throwing them a few crumbs of fake reform is going to keep him and his foul Umno/BN regime in control for much longer.

As chicken as a majority of Malaysians may have been in the past to rise up and throw this regime off its dunghill, fewer and fewer seem to quail at the thought these days. In fact millions are metaphorically dying for the chance to knock Umno/BN off its perch and wring its sorry neck.

In half a century of ruling the roost through a system of government ‘of the people, buy the people, pluck the people’, and simultaneously both feathering and fouling its own nest, Umno/BN seems to have finally cooked its goose.

Former cock-of-the-walk Dr Mohamad Mahathir seems to realise this, and is sticking his beak in as always, this time urging the government to delay the next general election.

And in the same breath, he flies in the face of the fact of his own ‘Ops Lalang’ atrocity to declare that the Internal Security Act (ISA) should not be used to stifle political dissent, but rather the hearts and minds of the people should be won with “logical arguments”.

But logical arguments are by no means this bird-brained regime’s strong point. In fact nothing these Umno/BN turkeys say makes the slightest sense or contains so much as a grain of reason, intelligence, integrity or truth.

For example, Najib is clearly intending to abolish the ISA in name only and replace it with not just one, but two similar Acts of bastardry. Or as an unidentified Umno operative reportedly told Asia Sentinel: “Other countries have provisions for detention without trial. Since the ISA has been stigmatised as draconian, (we) can just get another law.”

Even pro-ISA activists have dubbed Najib’s stated intention of abolishing the ISA as a fraud, with Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz (left), legal advisor to Gabungan NGO Pembela Negara, clucking that the “spirit” of the ISA remains intact, and that Najib’s apparently progressive move is nothing but a “rebranding process”.

As fake as his ISA ‘reform’ plans are – just like his royal commissions, electoral commission, ‘1Malaysia’ slogan and every word he utters – Najib is determined to deprive democracy activists and the opposition of any credit for egging him into action.

Speaking at an event called ‘Sirih Pulang ke Gagang’ (literally ‘a return to the fold’, which I must admit smacks more of an audience of sheep than of chickens), he declared: “Don’t anyone try to claim credit, saying that my announcement is due to their efforts. It is not due to their struggle but a decision made by BN after listening to the desires of the rakyat.”

Going on to claim that his review of the ISA is in keeping with his plans when he took over the prime ministership two years ago, but omitting to explain why he left it so long, he then took off on one of his typical flights of fancy, claiming that “Malaysian society now is a knowledge society which demands renewal to assure the people’s future as well as civil liberties”.

And since then, he has raised the level of his rhetoric to even more ludicrous heights, telling the faithful who flocked to his Aidilfitri open house that his repeal of the ISA is part of “an effort to make Malaysia the best democracy in the world”.

Excuse me while I have a cackle at this.

Crumbs for the chickens
Dean Johns
Sep 21, 2011 – Malaysiakini


Najib’s ISA repeals plan has hit a snag

Barely a week has passed, but already there are signs that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s sudden and surprise proposal to repeal the Internal Security Act and Emergency Laws has hit a snag.

Unless Umno, the boss in the ruling BN coalition, gets its act together, the repeals will not happen at the next Parliament sitting due to begin in early October. What more the replacement new laws for the repealed Acts, which need drafting and scrutiny before Parliaments passes them.

According to de-facto Law Minister Nazri Aziz, the paper for the new legislation can only be tabled when the Parliament convenes in March 2012. But Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has refuted Nazri, claiming that the two new Acts replacing the ISA and its sister Emergency laws can be be tabled before year end. As for Malay rights champion Ibrahim Ali, he has ominously announced that unless the new law had the “spirit of the ISA” in them, he and his Perkasa group will stage protests.

Contradictory statements from these men are an ominous sign for Najib’s reforms. Nazri is Najib’s spokesman, while Muhyiddin is positioning himself to wrest the Umno presidency from Najib. Ibrahim Ali is aligned to former premier Mahathir Mohamad, who supports Muhyiddin.

Only keen on 1st leg of repeals plan

Najib is keen to grab the glory for repealing the ISA, which will go down as his legacy in the event that he is booted out soon. It is also a mark of his lack of confidence to be able to stave off his party mates, who have already begun fighting for his seat.

But Najib is only interested in the first leg of his own ‘reform plan’. Until the general election is safely over, he wants nothing to do with the second leg, which involves introducing new laws, which could end up even tougher than the ISA and further erode his popularity and weak image.

If Najib is still in power after GE-13, then he will naturally take on the task, but if he has been booted out by Muhyddin – then why should he bother? This is his line of thinking. So, it looks like Thursday grand announcement will prove to be another empty shell. For the hapless Najib and his bumbling team of advisers, led by media and oil operative Omar Mustapa, it was another glitzy announcement made without any clear implementation mechanism in place. All show but no go.

As pundits have pointed out, it is prudent to be sceptical given Najib’s past record of caving in to Umno at the sign of any fightback by his colleagues. His lack of political will was responsible for the shelving of his New Economic Model. Brave in making his announcement but destined to fizzle out.

Just days old, Najib’s ISA repeals plan has hit a snag
19 September 2011 – Malaysia Chronicle


Najib eyes legacy, leaving Muhyiddin with the ‘new laws’ baby if BN wins GE-13

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s surprise repeal of the ISA and Emergency laws has stirred unease within his UMNO party, especially in the camps supporting his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, who is touted to succeed him as the Umno president soon – the earliest by the end of this year, and the latest, within 12 months after the next general election.

The 64-year-old Muhyiddin would have to contend with the backlash after Najib rushed to secure a final glory for himself. Initially, even his supporters and other BN parties were shell-shocked at the sudden move to dismantle the mechanism used by Umno to suppress political rivals for decades.Then they realised, Najib had actually retained an exit route in the form of new replacement laws to get them out of troube.

Confirmed, Umno-BN will never change their ways

Heaving a collective sigh of relief, Umno and BN leaders are now starting to come out to cheer the repeals plan despite a deafening silence from the public. And this is the sign that Malaysians have been waiting for – the confirmation of Umno and BN’s lack of morality and sincerity. Sad to say, Malaysians found themselves proven right for suspecting that Umno-BN could try to trick their countrymen into beliieving that they had done something good, when in actual fact, things could actually become worse because of the repeal.

The new replacement laws, which are to kick in only after the 13th general election may empower the BN – if they win – with even greater discretionary powers. And this is why there has been little or no celebration. Groups and activists who have long fought the ISA, taking severe physical and mental beatings, even jail time, for protesting the law are now demanding compensation. And to thwart them, Najib is claiming he and BN made the decision on their own – with no thanks at all to the tens of thousands of anti-ISA activists or even the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Those who watched Najib’s grand announcement on TV, and were disgusted at his overkill of self-glorification, aren’t surprised at his uncharitable response to the anti-ISA activists. And they will be glad to see the back of him. Malaysians are no fools. Pundits say the people intuitively suspect something amiss in this rash of repeals and have no wish to be used by Najib and his advisers led by media and oil operative Omar Mustapha, in their game against their Umno rivals for political survival.

Custer’s last stand

Indeed, it is prudent to be really sceptical about Najib’s announcements given his lack of political will to carry through all other plans that he promised in April 2009, when he took over the hot-seat from a fumbling Abdullah Badawi. What then is Najib’s real motive in making these proposals?

Apart from skullduggery aimed to undermine Umno rivals including Muhyiddin, it is also Najib’s bid – a Custer’s last stand – to leave a legacy before he is dumped by the top Umno leadership just like Badawi had been ousted by a group led by Najib himself. In fact, Najib alluded to it in his Malaysia Day speech, pointing out that he had promised to abolish the ISA when he first took office in 2009, promising greater democracy.

Yet during his term in office, Malaysia received the greatest condemnation worldwide. Over the July 9 Bersih rally for free and fair elections, Malaysia became the object of world ridicule when Najib jailed anyone and everyone for wearing yellow T-shirts. Malaysian diaspora too confirmed the view that the Umno-led government persecuted its people and cheated at elections, when they carried out sister rallies in solidarity with Bersih at more than 30 cities worldwide.

Najib eyes legacy, leaving Muhyiddin with the ‘new laws’ baby if BN wins GE-13
18 September 2011 – Malaysia Chronicle

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All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

- Thomas Jefferson
Do you hear the people sing?