The Malay Mail Online
April 8, 2015
The government’s duty to ensure the country’s safety does not negate its responsibility to uphold citizens’ rights and the rule of law, the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) said in criticising Putrajaya’s decision to revive detention without trial.
While expressing support for government efforts to combat the risk of terrorism, the commission insisted that laws such as the Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2015 (Pota) must still be consistent with local and international human rights standards.
“Although the government has an obligation to ensure that the constitutional rights of its citizens are protected by taking positive measures to counter threats of terrorism and extremism, the Commission reiterates that such measures must not pose disproportionate challenges to fundamental human rights and the rule of law, and jeopardise the principles of democracy,” Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, the chair of Suhakam, said in a statement yesterday.
Promises that Pota would not be abused to stifle political dissent also failed to appease Suhakam, which pointed out that the lack of oversight, transparency, and accountability meant that there were insufficient safeguards to prevent possible misuse of the law.
Among others, Suhakam highlighted the lack of judicial review over detention orders issued using the law as well as the prohibition of legal representation for individuals who will be held without trial, saying these were clear violations of fundamental rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
“In consideration of the above, the Commission calls on the government to be committed to upholding its international human rights obligations and urges for a revision of the Act, with full and meaningful consultations with all stakeholders, including the Commission,” Hasmy added.
The Pota was passed without amendment at the Dewan Rakyat at about 2.25am yesterday after a debate of more than 12 hours.
The Bill was approved after the ninth block voting, with the final voting favouring the government when 79 MPs from Barisan Nasional consented to the bill while 60 MP from Pakatan Rakyat rejected it.
Tabled in Parliament last Monday, Putrajaya’s proposed new law will allow authorities to detain suspected terrorists without bringing them to court for up to two years, with a Prevention of Terrorism Board (POTB) empowered to renew the detention order without limit.
Opposition lawmakers have claimed such provisions mirror that of the now-repealed Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960 that had been specifically enacted to combat the Communist Insurgency of its times, but had later been used to silence political opposition to the establishment.