Monday, April 9, 2012
Law to replace ISA tabled in Parliament today
A new preventive detention law was tabled in Parliament today to replace the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960, with indefinite detention replaced with a maximum 28-day detention period.
The Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill, meant to address long-held criticism over the 52-year-old ISA, was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz for first reading today and slotted for debates next week.
Major points against the ISA are that it allows arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention.
The Bill seeks to provide special measures relating to security offences for the purpose of maintaining public order and security specifically to tackle threats by a person or a substantial body.
The threat highlighted in the Bill are as follows:
1) To cause, or to cause a substantial number of citizens to fear, organised violence against persons or property;
2) To excite disaffection against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong;
3) Which is prejudicial to public order in, or the security of, the federation or any part thereof; or
4) To procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of anything established by law.
The Bill also states that no individuals can be arrested and detained solely for his political belief or political activity, in contrast to the ISA which was used extensively in 1987 to quell and arrest prominent opposition leaders.
Under the new law, a police officer is still given the rights to arrest and detain any persons, without warrant, if there is reason to believe the individual has been involved in security offences.
However, the individual arrested has to be informed of the grounds of the arrest by the police officer soon after.
The person arrested may be detained for a period of 24 hours for the purpose of investigations, but the detention period may be extended for a period of not more than 28 days, by a police offer of/or above the rank of superintendent of police.
Nevertheless, if the police officer finds that no further detention is necessary but the individual still needs to assist investigations, upon submitting a report to the public prosecutor, an application may be made to the Sessions Court to allow for an electronic monitoring device to be attached to the individual, for up to 21 days.
Investigation officers are required to submit their investigation papers to the public prosecutor a week before the detention period expires.
The Bill will affect one’s rights enshrined under Article 5 and Article 9 of the federal constitution which ensure personal liberty and freedom of movement, as well as Section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
The ISA was mooted during the administration of prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, who said then that it was meant primarily to target the communist insurgency of the period.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in announcing the abolition during his speech on the eve of Malaysia Day last Sept 15, said this would pave the way for greater civil liberties and democratic reforms.
The anti-ISA coalition Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) led a marchto Parliament yesterday complaining of the government’s silence over the repeal of the ISA and that no public consultation on the new laws has been conducted.
[More to follow]