DEC 10 — Global Bersih notes with very great concern the passage of the National Security Council Bill by Malaysia’s Dewan Rakyat on 3 December; condemns the unseemly haste and lack of due process with which this was done; and calls on the 66 senators of the Dewan Negara – as well as the Yang di-Pertuan Agung – to reject this bill in order to safeguard the fundamental liberties of the Malaysian people.
In doing so, Global Bersih adds the voices of the Malaysian diaspora and friends of Malaysians abroad to those of the Malaysian Bar, who called the bill a ‘lurch towards an authoritarian government’, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, as well as other civil society groups and tens of thousands of ordinary Malaysians who have signed petitions to Dewan Negara to reject the Bill.
Global Bersih strongly supports the #taknakdiktator public campaign launched on 8 December by seven civil society organizations – including Bersih 2.0 – calling on the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and the Dewan Negara to engage in the symbolic act of rejecting this Bill, despite the fact their powers have been severely curtailed by constitutional amendments. The NGOs have called for the YDP Agong to “refuse his assent to the NSC Bill. While constitutional amendments prevent him from rejecting it outright, his refusal to assent would send a clear signal that the Bill is fundamentally flawed and should be done away with.”
The Bill in question establishes a new statutory body with wide-ranging powers called the National Security Council (“NSC”), chaired by the Prime Minister and composed of key members of the executive who are all appointed by, and report directly to the Prime Minister.
The powers of the NSC, “the Government’s central authority for considering matters concerning national security” (Clause 3), include that to “control” and “issue directives” to any Federal or State government agency on operations or matters concerning national security (Clauses 2 and 5), and to advise the Prime Minister to declare any area in Malaysia as a “security area”.
Within a security area, the NSC is empowered to deploy security forces (Clause 19), who “may use such force against persons and things as is reasonable and necessary…to preserve national security” (Clause 34), arrest individuals without warrants, stop and search individuals, enter and search any premises, and take possession of land, building or movable property (Clauses 25 to 30).
Further, the NSC has legal immunity “in respect of any act, neglect or default done or omitted by it or him in good faith, in such capacity” (Clause 38). Despite the grave and far-reaching implications of this Bill, numerous key terms such as “national security”, “reasonable and necessary” and “in good faith” are not defined in any concrete form.
While the bill will now be presented to the Dewan Negara, under Mahathir-era constitutional amendments, if not passed, the Bill can nevertheless be presented a second time to the Dewan Rakyat after a year. A month after the hypothetical second passage by the Dewan Rakyat, the Bill goes to the Yang di-Pertuan Agung regardless of the decision of the Dewan Negara, and becomes law a month after this, regardless of the Yang di-Pertuan Agung’s decision.
As the state of civil liberties continues on a downward spiral in Malaysia, the Malaysian diaspora will have a proportionally greater role and responsibility for the future of the country we love. The present state of affairs, in which the voices and interests of the Malaysian people can be easily and are routinely ignored, highlights the urgent need for deep institutional reforms, including the electoral reforms continuously called for by Bersih 2.0 and Global Bersih.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.