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Sunday, June 30, 2013

A struggle between beliefs and facts – if there are any facts – on the emergency act


Lawyers are split on whether it was such a good move after all to repeal the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance two years ago. 
The repeal was described as both a good and bad thing, depending on whom you asked. Prominent criminal lawyer M. Athimulan took the middle path. 
He said that as a lawyer, he would hold firm that the preventive law was not needed, as he was against detention without trial. 
But as an ordinary citizen, he sympathised with the police, who had recently declared that many of the detainees they had released after the emergency act was killed are back on the streets and back to their old ways. 
Several senior federal police officers told The Malaysian Insider recently that the increase in violent crimes was partly because the criminals were back on the streets after the emergency act was killed in 2011. 
They said they depended on the emergency act when they could not get enough evidence to take hardcore criminals and syndicate kingpins to open court. 
Selangor Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation adviser Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam had in July last year said that with the repeal of the act, there could be as many as 2,000 former detainees roaming free in Selangor alone. 
"As a citizen, I will say that the EO may be required, but there is a need for check and balances to ensure that it is not abused by the police," he said, referring to the act by its initials. 
Another well-known lawyer, Amer Hamzah Arshad, however, felt that the EO was used by the police as an “easy way out”. 
"How can they link the repeal of the EO to the increase in crime rates? They cannot make such statements without a proper study. Has there been any research done for them to say this?" he asked. 
He said that the police should solve the crime by investigating the case and arresting the suspects only when there is evidence. 
Amer said that under the EO, police would arrest the suspects for two years, simply based on suspicion. 
"After two years, they are released. Then what?" he questioned. 
He added while it gave the public the perception that the police were doing their job, it did not address the root cause of the issue. 
Amer pointed out that a High Court judge once said that the country's police force was of world-class standard, so there should be no need for the EO. 
Criminologist Dr. P. Sundramoorthy, however, believes that preventive laws are still needed in Malaysia to curb secret society and gangsters. 
"The preventive laws were there not to make the job of the police easier but to control organised and syndicated crime," he said. 
He agreed with police who claimed that the recent spate of crime was because of the repeal of the act. 
"No doubt, those who were detained have returned back to their old ways with better networking in the crime world," he said. 
The Associate Professor of criminology in Universiti Sains Malaysia went on to say that after calls from human rights groups to abolish preventive laws, his team of criminologists came up with recommendations to the Government. 
"We advised the government to repeal the Restricted Residences Act but to revise the EO. 
"We should have a similar law to the EO but it must come with stringent checks and balances so that there is no abuse," he added. 
He said crimes related to secret societies and gangsters cannot be curbed with regular laws because in most of these cases, witnesses were afraid to come out and testify. 
"It is difficult and the EO has been effective all these years, with very little error,' he said. 
Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua had also taken the police to task for blaming the spate of crimes on the lack of preventive laws. 
"This is a shocking. Is the police telling us that if they are unable to jail suspects without trial, then they are unable to fight crime in the country? 
“Are they claiming to be so incompetent that they are unable to investigate with all required evidence to bring these alleged criminals to court and make them pay for their crimes via the rule of law?” 

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