Today is Human Rights Day 2015 and we should be joining with peoples all over the world to celebrate another milestone in the promotion and protection of human rights in Malaysia – but the reverse is taking place.
On the Human Rights Day this year, Malaysians are facing with the greatest threat to democratic and human rights for over a decade since the retirement of Tun Mahathir as Prime Minister with the human rights horrors committed during his 22-year premiership, like the Operation Lalang mass arrests and closure of newspapers in 1987 and the assault on the independence of the judiciary beginning in 1988.
This is what has brought us to this forum “National Security Act: To Protect or to Oppress” tonight.
I had called the National Security Council (NSC) monstrous and pernicious because it was nothing less than a quadruple power grab, usurping the constitutional powers of the Yang di Pertuan Agong and the Cabinet on the proclamation of Emergency as well as the autonomy rights of the Sarawak and Sabah State governments, and it was rushed through the Dewan Rakyat “like a thief in the night” with a vote of 107 vs 74, in a late-night session on the last day of the 25-day Parliamentary meeting without any prior notice to the major stakeholders in the land.
On closer look, the NSC Bill is even more monstrous and pernicious for it would create a parallel government with an infrastructure of bureaucracy of its own, vesting the Prime Minister with executive powers to interfere with the running of the 13 State Governments without the consent or even consultation with the State Governments concerned.
Had the Prime Minister consulted and sought the consent of all the 13 state governments before the NSC Bill was presented to the Dewan Rakyat last week?
At present, it is only when the country is under a state of Emergency proclaimed by the Yang di Pertuan Agong under Article 150 of the Constitution that the Federal Government can act in disregard of the existence of State Governments, as Article 150 (4) provides:
“ 150 (4): While a proclamation of emergency is in force the executive authority of the Federation shall, notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, extend to any matter within the legislative authority of a State and to the giving of directions to the Government of a State or to any officer or authority thereof.”
But under the NSC Bill, the Prime Minister will have such executive powers to interfere or even take over the directions of any of the 13 State Governments in ordinary times, without any proclamation of emergency by the Yang di Pertuan Agong as required by the Malaysian Constitution.
Why should such extensive and alarming powers of interfering and even take-over of State Government powers be sanctioned under ordinary times, which makes a mockery of the will and mandate of the voters during the State general elections?
The functions and powers of the National Security Council are far-reaching and a threat to democratic and human rights of Malaysians, because there will be no proper check and balance.
The functions of the Council are not just confined to advising the Prime Minister to declare “security areas” where Malaysians will be very “unsafe”, as there will be virtual immunity and impunity for the NSC bureaucracy to carry out its powers, but include other functions, like the formulation and monitoring of implementation of “national security” policies and strategic measures, encompassing “sovereignty, territorial integrity, defence, socio-political stability, economic stability, strategic resources, national unity and other interests relating to national security” – a catch-all definition which covers anything under the sun!
Section 5 of the NSC Bill vests the National Security Council with the “powers to do all things necessary or expedient for or in connection with the performance of its functions including – (a) to control and co-ordinate Government Entities on operations concerning national security; and (b) to issue directives to any Government Entity on matters concerning national security”.
It must be noted that these extensives powers of the National Security Council are exercisable at all times and in all areas, without having to resort to Section 18 on the declaration of a “Security Area”.
Under the NSC Bill, “Government Entities” is defined as:
(a) any ministry, department, office, agency, authority, commission, committee, board or council of the Federal Government, or any of the State Governments, established under any written law or otherwise;
(b) any local authorities; and
(c) the Security Forces.
Such a wide definition of “Government Entities” will bring all State Governments and local authorities within the ambit of jurisdiction and control of the National Security Council, which has completed superseded the Cabinet with the NSC more powerful than the Cabinet.
The NSC comprises the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Defence Minister, the Communications and Multimedia Minister, the Chief Secretary, the Chief of Defence Forces and the Inspector-General of Police.
As the Prime Minister had not consulted or sought the agreement of the 13 State Governments to the enactment of the NSC Bill, which would vest the Prime Minister with the executive power to interfere and even take-over of powers and jurisdiction of State Governments and local authorities, the presentation of the NSC Bill to Senate should be deferred until all the thirteen State Governments have been consulted and agreement given for the creation of a parallel NSC government vesting the Prime Minister with executive powers to interfere with the running of the 13 state governments.
(Speech at the “National Security Councl Act: To Protect or To Oppress” Forum held at The Club, Bukit Utama, Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya on Thursdzy, 10th December 2015 at 8 pm)