Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s disappointing response to why the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) was used against Bersih chief Maria Chin Abdullah is not only pathetic but also sets a dangerous and alarming precedence for future utilisation of this law.
Perhaps the Home Minister has forgotten that it is he who is answerable to issues such as this. In that role, the buck stops at his desk. The Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney General are unelected officials.
It is important to underline this fact as this incident underlines how incredibly powerful the position of the Inspector General of Police has become.
The response by Zahid Hamidi brings into stark relief the problems of the vested enhanced police powers contained within security laws such as Sosma, the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, the Sedition Act 1948, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, the Prevention of Crime Act 1959, and the National Security Council Act 2016.
These are unelected civil servants who appear to behave as if they are accountable only to their political masters and not to the Malaysian public.
The reality is that it is becoming increasingly problematic to provide the necessary checks and balances to curb excesses in the use of these laws.
In 2011, the government gave its assurance and promise that “no individual will be arrested merely on the point of political ideology.” In fact, the Hansard captures the discussion during the Sosma debate where Khairy Jamaluddin (Rembau) proceeded to school Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (Kuala Selangor) on the finer points of the security law.
Then de-facto law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz indicated that the Penal Code, particularly Section 124(b) of the amended Penal Code which defines activities “detrimental to parliamentary democracy”, had to be read together with Sosma. He emphatically stated that only those carrying out such activities through “violent or unconstitutional means” could be arrested.
Khairy even mentioned that Bersih did not fall under this definition. He stated that it was important to look at the letter and spirit of the law.
Did Khairy get hoodwinked into believing what he said? Was Datuk Seri Nazri? I really want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Or does the word of the government and elected representatives mean very little anymore to anyone?
I hate to be cynical but it is clear that the concerns and fears of those who opposed the setting up of Sosma, that it would be open to abuse and misuse for purposes other than the prevention of terrorism, were real and well-founded by bitter experience.
It was just last year that Datuk Seri Khairuddin Hassan and his lawyer, Matthias Chang were detained under the same law for reasons which remain vague.
Back in 2012, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak promised that there would be a review panel responsible to monitor and review the implementation of this security law, as part of safeguards to prevent its misuse. Four years later, this promise remains unfulfilled and Sosma appears to be used without supervision.
The news from Maria Chin’s lawyers that the police would hold her without charge or trial for the entire 28 days provided under Sosma for investigative purposes, can be interpreted as a form of retribution and punitive punishment. Zahid Hamidi, by his response, has already indicated who’s responsible.
This is a not a suspected terrorist who has plotted to assassinate leaders, destroy public property, commit mass murder to terrorise, or even organise a violent disturbance with the intent of destabilising the government.
This is a person who dared to challenge those in authority by standing up and speaking out against the dismal state of our democracy. Who, with the support of thousands of Malaysians, decided that we needed to organise a peaceful demonstration to communicate the dissatisfaction and concern of citizens who believe that the government has turned away from them.
The High Court judgement on Nov 17 reaffirmed that no private citizen or groups should use the court to prevent any organisations from exercising their constitutional right to assemble.
This is a right protected under the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, a right which Maria Chin Abdullah stood up for on our behalf.
The ongoing detention of Maria Chin is an abuse of the legal system, a misuse of law enforcement, and undermines the bedrock of our democratic freedoms.
For the sake of our fundamental civil liberties, we cannot afford to take on the complacent mindset and hands-off attitude that the government knows best and would never do something which would harm fellow citizens. After all, the government works for us. They should be reminded of that fact. Repeatedly.
The people are not the enemy.
Source : Azrul Mohd Khalib@The Heat Malaysia Online