Home Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi is mistaken if he thinks that although Pakatan Rakyat is opposed to Islamic State and Islamic extremism, he has a blank cheque to enact a spate of anti-terrorism laws without proper consultation with the Opposition and the civil society.
I am quite disturbed by Zahid’s complacency and cavalier attitude as reflected by his statement after the presentation of the spate of anti-terrorism bills like the Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2015 (POTA) that he is confident the opposition will back POTA and that rejection would most likely come from activists and human rights’ lawyers.
Up to now, in finalizing the spate of anti-terrorism bills, Zahid has never bothered to consult with Pakatan Rakyat MPs and the civil society or seek their views on adequate safeguards against abuses of far-reaching powers.
Zahid should realise that the Barisan Nasional has no monopoly of patriotism, that in fact the Barisan Nasional government is a minority government, getting the support of only 47% of the electorate and it is because of the undemocratic gerrymandering of parliamentary seats and unfair electoral practices that Barisan Nasional continues to be the Federal Government.
However, in view of the fact that the Barisan Nasional is for the first time in Malaysian history a minority government, it is more beholden of the government to fully consult with the Opposition and the civil society before it enacts the controversial legislation in Parliament.
But the Barisan Nasional government has not taken note of these needs, which is why the Minister should now seriously consider the proposal to refer to spate of seven anti-terrorism legislation to a Parliamentary Select Committee which can make a more detailed study of the proposed bills and make recommendations for the next parliamentary meeting beginning on May 18.
Despite assurances by Zahid that the threat of Islamic State (IS) and Islamic extremism in Malaysia is being kept under check, recent reports seem to indicate the contrary – with Islamic State and Islamic extremism extending their influence at various levels of society, including the civil service.
MPs are entitled to a full report by the police counter-terrorism division whether it is fighting a winning or losing war against Islamic State and Islamic extremism in Malaysia – particularly after the shocking praise given by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to the Islamic State in June last year.
Why has the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit failed to give regular updates to all MPs on the success or failures of its work?
The battle against terrorism cannot be won by just enacting anti-terrorism laws if the root causes for the radicalization and recruitment of youths into terrorist activities are not addressed.
This should be a special subject of debate and study by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Terrorism.
The Government must not dismiss concerns that the anti-terrorist legislation could violate human rights and civil liberties completely unrelated to terrorist activities, especially in provisions excluding judicial discretion or judicial review, or in creating an illusion of judicial oversight when in fact there is none or reducing judicial officers to mere rubber stamps.
The revival of ISA powers of indefinite detention without trial, allowing a two-year detention which is renewable indefinitely, is a most abhorrent and abominable provision when there are no safeguards or provisions against their abuses.
The Home Minister must allow for a more consultative process with PR MPs as well as the civil society before the spate of anti-terrorism bills are enacted to become the law of the land.