KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today he does not regret implementing preventive detention laws at the expense of civil liberties as the legislations are needed to contain the threat of terrorism, chiefly the Islamic State (IS).
Speaking at an international conference on counter-terrorism here, the Pekan MP said security supersedes civil liberties as he defended his administration’s decision to roll out the laws amid strong criticism from rights groups.
“It is right to talk about striking balance between civil liberties and national security. But, let me tell you this. There are no civil liberties under Daesh, and they are no shield against those who are not set on committing acts of terrorism,” Najib said, referring to the global terror group better known as the IS in his opening speech at the International Conference on Deradicalisation and Countering Violence and Extremism here.
“The best way to uphold civil liberties is to ensure the safety of the nation. I make no apology for taking every step to preserve that safety. Let me repeat that. I will make no apology,” he added.
Right groups claim preventive detention laws violate human rights.
At the same time some opposition leaders claim the new anti-terrorism laws mirrored “draconian” legislations like the now-repealed Internal Security Act, which was widely used to quell dissent when the law was still in place.
Today's day-long conference will see delegations from various countries discuss deradicalisation efforts to combat the appeal of the IS, which government leaders conceded has gained a foothold in the region.
Next to preventive detention laws, Najib said his administration has introduced several measures to counter the IS's threat including empowering moderates and rolling out rehabilitation programmes.
The Umno president also said today's conference underscores his administration's attempt to strengthen government-to-government cooperation in deradicalisation efforts.
“These... are among the tools we can use — both to counter violent extremism, and to assist in guiding former radicals back to the right path,” Najib said.
The prime minister previously embarked on several political reform projects by repealing old security laws, only to reintroduce new preventive detention laws in his second term, although he insisted they were necessary to beef up security.
Today he said his government remained firm in its commitment to battle violent extremism.
“We will remain tireless in our endeavours to reverse the ideological misconceptions and falsehoods that fuel extremism. I am sure this conference will make an important contribution,” he said.