Government draws flak for decision to retain Sosma and Poca.
- Sosma could be amended but easier and more prudent for government to abolish the act entirely and replace it with fairer legislation
- No amendment can be made that may “rescue” Poca from being an unjust and repressive law.
- PH backtracking on its promises by retaining oppressive laws
- Using same justifications put forward by previous BN-led administration
Human rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) has condemned Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s backtracking on the pledge to abolish the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) and the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca).
Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy described claims that Sosma and Poca provide the guarantee of national safety and security as “deceitful”, “irresponsible” and “malicious”.
“By claiming that these laws are critical for national security, the minister is suggesting that our criminal justice system under the Criminal Procedure Code and the Penal Code that has withstood the test of time is irrelevant or incapable of addressing criminal matters or providing justice,” he said.
In a statement on Wednesday (Jan 2), Sevan said Muhyiddin’s suggestion that Sosma and Poca would not be abolished is a betrayal by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.
He said Muhyiddin had previously committed to engaging civil societies on the issues, and to establish a working group to review the laws while a moratorium is placed on them – but the Home Ministry has since fallen silent.
“If the current administration fails to uphold the spirit of reform, which led to its rise to power, the failure will undoubtedly contribute to its premature downfall as support among the public dwindles,” Sevan said.
He added that civil society demands Sosma and Poca be abolished.
“Give detainees an opportunity to defend themselves fairly in court, in line with the established principle of the right to a fair trial.
“Failing which, Pakatan should drop the charade and acknowledge that they are no different from Barisan Nasional,” Sevan said.
In his winding-up speech during Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s annual assembly, Muhyddin, who is also the party president, said the government will retain Sosma for national security, claiming the preventive detention law is necessary despite its shortcomings.
The Malaysian Insight quoted him as saying that Sosma is needed to ensure Malaysia’s stability and to deter threats to national security, while Free Malaysia Today quoted him as saying: “If the current laws are not maintained, there will be those who think they are free to do anything and threaten the country with gangsterism and terrorism.”
Meanwhile, Lawyers for Liberty said in a statement today that PH is backtracking on its promises by retaining these laws and using the same justifications put forward by the previous BN-led administration.
The group’s executive director Latheefa Koya accused the government of taking the “easy way out” by retaining these laws.
Separately, lawyer Syahredzan Johan suggested that Sosma could be amended in a way that the provision for a 28-day detention is done through the court system instead of through police powers.
However, he said that Poca could not be “rescued” from being an unjust and repressive law through amendments.
In addition, he said Sosma contains provisions that are contrary to the criminal justice system’s rules of evidence. These must be removed to ensure that Sosma detainees are given a fair trial, he added.
Nevertheless, the political secretary to Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang concurred that both laws should be abolished.
“Although it is not impossible to amend Somsa by removing aspects that are problematic, such an exercise requires a total overhaul of the law.
“It is, therefore, easier and more prudent for the government to abolish the act entirely and to replace it with legislation that can strike a balance between fundamental liberties and the need to combat threats to national security.
“Poca allows for detention without trial. Such legislation is an affront to the rule of law and has no place in a democratic country such as Malaysia. Poca is a law that echoes the much-criticised Internal Security Act (ISA).
“No amendment can be made that may ‘rescue’ Poca from being an unjust and repressive law,” he said in a statement today.
Latheefa pointed out that of all the oppressive laws that PH had promised to amend or repeal, not a single one has been honoured except for a failed attempt to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act 2018.
A repeal bill for the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 was passed in the Dewan Rakyat last year but was rejected by the Senate.
She also urged the government to return to its manifesto promise to enhance and modernise the police force.
“This is what is required to effectively and efficiently tackle and prevent crimes, not by using oppressive laws that confer arbitrary powers to the police.
“Further, modernisation of law enforcement methods will also enhance the police’s reputation as well as prevent abuse and misconduct,” she said.
Related report: Dec 31, Maria Chin Lambasts Decision to Retain Sosma and Poca