©Malay Mail (Used by permission)
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — Attempts to allow the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 to disregard constitutional rights suggests a return to the days of preventive detention previously available under two now–repealed security laws, a civil liberties lawyer said today.
Commenting on Putrajaya’s proposed amendments tabled in Parliament this morning, lawyer Syahredzan Johan described the move to classify the PCA as law under Article 149 of the Federal Constitution, which allows special laws inconsistent with other Articles on individual liberties, as an ominous step.
“Article 149 allows for laws to be made that may violate certain fundamental liberties such as Article 5, 9, 10 and 13. Similar to the ISA and SOSMA,” he told The Malay Mail Online via email today, referring to the repealed Internal Security Act and its replacement, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.
Insisting that his interpretation was based only on a brief reading of the Bill, Syahredzan said the move to include the PCA under the Article also appeared improper.
“This is bad. Article 149 envisages a situation of emergency (although no state of emergency declaration is needed).
“Such legislation are only to be used sparingly, because it can violate certain liberties. Surely the government is not saying that we are in such a situation?” he said.
He further noted the inclusion of an ouster clause in the Bill that could frustrate attempts to seek judicial review for detention orders made under the amended law.
“The clause ousts the jurisdiction of the Court to review the exercise of discretion by the Board, except in relation to compliance with procedural requirements. This means that Courts can only review procedure, not merits of the Board’s discretion,” he said, in reference to the Prevention of Crime Board that will decide on detention orders under the amended PCA.
This effectively precluded judicial review of the merits under which the detention is made, he explained.
“As it appears that the Court may only review non–compliance with procedures, we are witnessing the return to the days of detention without trial a la ISA and EO,” the lawyer added.
This morning, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi tabled a Bill to amend the PCA to incorporate preventive detention powers lost when Putrajaya repealed the ISA and EO in 2011 in an apparent bid to extend its fight against crime.
Among others, the new amendments will allow authorities to hold individuals without charge or trial for up to two years at a time, up from the current 72 days.
The move soon led to fears of a return towards the days of the ISA, the colonial era security law that critics say was abused by the government to silence dissent.
Shortly after tabling the Bill in Parliament this morning, Ahmad Zahid insisted it did not signify a return to the “draconian” ISA.
Instead, he described the amendments as a transformation in the vein on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s various national transformation plans.