The Malaysian Insider
6 December 2015
Just before the stroke of midnight last Thursday, December 3, Parliament passed the National Security Council Bill that nobody, not even the hawk-eyed opposition or the wide network of civil society groups, had any premonition of before it was tabled a mere two days earlier.
All peace-loving Malaysians regardless of your political affiliations, or even if you really couldn’t give two teh tariks for politics, have good reason to be concerned when this security law comes into force.
The manner in which it was bulldozed in Parliament, the ease with which it was passed and the ramifications of the vast executive powers it confers to members of the National Security Council (NSC) have left little to the imagination as to the sinister undertones of this Bill.
Absolute power in the hands of an unpopular leadership
The tabling of the Bill comes at a time when the country’s leadership is facing a crisis of public confidence. State investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has yet to be made accountable for the loss of billions of taxpayers’ dollars while Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak continues to evade and ignore all calls for transparency into the source and use of RM2.6 billion that was deposited into his personal bank accounts.
The NSC Bill grants absolute power to members of the Council, which includes a scandal-plagued prime minister facing relentless calls from the opposition, and even within his own party, to step down.
One of the more insidious points in the Bill is the granting of the right to the prime minister to declare any area in the country as a “security area” if national security is deemed to be threatened.
However, the Bill fails to clearly specify what constitutes a threat to national security. The combination of an embattled leader, with the ambiguity as to what constitutes a national threat means that anything from a female journalist, to Umno critics of Najib and leaders of civil rights society are fair game to be detained.
With this Bill, the rights of any citizen to freedom of speech and civil liberties, in one fell swoop, can be made redundant if the Council sees fit to exercise its powers.
A climate of fear
The post-independence era of the Internal Security Act have shown how the security law was abused with the detention of hundreds of political opposition members and outspoken activists, all jailed as threats to national security.
Most of us have grown up in a climate of fear, practicing self-censorship in what we say or do. It is only in the past decade that the country has seen a growth in civil society movements and greater, more active participation of the Rakyat in the country’s political processes.
The NSC Bill, just like other restrictive laws, threatens to return the nation to an era where “stability” is used as the justification for the oppression of dissent.
In our highly competitive world, nations that are thriving with a dynamic society that encourages creativity and political and economic competition are the ones that will surge ahead.
Malaysia’s decision to put in place a Bill like the NSC is backward thinking, and clearly an act with little regard to the social and economic implications on the next generation.
The failure of our MPs to defend the people
The ease with which the Bill was passed, with 107 MPs voting for it against 74 who disapproved, is highly disappointing, to say the least.
For an MP to vote for a Bill that accords absolute power and immunity to the Executive, with no need for accountability to the people, is just further proof that the elected BN lawmakers we currently have in Parliament have failed to do their jobs of defending the rights and well-being of the people.
It’s an affront to the process of democracy when those voted into positions of power by the people, turn against the Rakyat.
The lack of principled MPs that make the majority of Parliament is indeed worrying as this means that the people have no safeguards against laws and policies that assault our rights and way of life.
The only possible positive outcome that can come from the passing of the NSC Bill is that voters who have yet to realise it will now see how our leaders are largely self-serving and our elected lawmakers blindly compliant.
And those voters will hopefully remember to expect higher standards in choosing their representatives in the country’s next general elections. – December 6, 2015.