By Yow Hong Chieh
KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — Putrajaya must review provisions in the replacement law for the Internal Security Act (ISA) which could pose a threat to personal liberties, the Malaysian Bar said today.
The Bar said that while the repeal of the ISA was commendable, the government's counter-terrorism policies, as fleshed out in the new law, should "strike a delicate balance" between collective security and individuals' rights.
Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said of greatest concern were Parts IV and VII of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill 2012 which states that a summary of the evidence can be used to build a case, as opposed to the evidence itself.
"The radical departure from the ordinary rules of evidence may negatively impact on the accused’s right to a fair trial," he said in a statement.
"Counter-terrorism laws, policies and decisions must not usurp the very rights and freedoms that the terrorists themselves are threatening."
Lim also noted that Bill's definition of security offences under Section 3 was "too wide" and urged the government to use a more precise one, as can be found in the UN Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
Powers to detain suspects for 28 days and to intercept communications under Sections 4 and 6 should also be subject to judicial oversight and not decided by the police, he stressed.
"We appreciate the assurance of the Attorney-General that there will be continuous study and review of the Bill... and that the Malaysian Bar's contribution will be welcomed," he said.
Lim added that the government should also consider amending the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985 and Prevention of Crime Act 1959 "to rid our statute books of all arbitrary detention laws".
"The Malaysian Bar encourages and supports the prime minister to continue on a path of law reform that is consonant with international human rights norms," he said.
The ISA replacement law was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat today, removing the government's option to detain without trial and providing a maximum detention of 28 days for investigation purposes.
Under the ISA, an individual believed to have committed a security offence can be detained for up to two years without trial, on orders from the home minister.
The Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill, tabled for first reading by de facto law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, states that "all security offences shall be tried by the High Court".
The Bill seeks to provide for "special measures" relating to security offences for the purpose of maintaining public order and security and for connected matters.
The new law also notably states that no individual can be arrested solely for his political belief or any political activity, as promised by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last year when announcing a raft of reforms aimed at increasing civil liberties.
But the Bill, the first of two laws that will replace the ISA, still allows the police to arrest and detain "any person whom he has reason to believe to be involved in security offences" without warrant for 24 hours for investigation.
KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 – Putrajaya does not approve a campaign to boycott Chinese businesses initiated by pro-Umno bloggers and backed by several Muslim groups, Datuk Hasan Malek said today but the new Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism minister added that he cannot block their right to do so.