Former Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah has expressed disappointment over Putrajaya’s decision to maintain two security laws that were under scrutiny from its leaders in the past.
This comes after the home minister’s statement that the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) and the Prevention of Crime Act (Amendment) or (Poca) will be kept with some amendments.
“If the current laws are not maintained, there will be those who think they are free to do anything and threaten the country through gangsterism and terrorism,” Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday.
“That is why we use the current laws with the police and other authorities implementing them fully,” he said.
“Will he (Muhyiddin) get rid of (having) arrest without trials and the power for the police to detain (those charged under Poca or Sosma) for 28 days without trial,” Maria, who is the Petaling Jaya MP, asked.
Maria, who was detained for her role in leading the Bersih 5 rally in 2016, asked whether the proposed amendments to Poca and Sosma would allow detainees to have access to their lawyers and family.
She recalled how she had access to her lawyers and family members only on her first day of detention when she was detained under Sosma for 11 days that year in November.
Under Sosma, a person can be detained for a maximum of 28 days and police can delay his access to family and legal counsel for up to 48 hours after the arrest.
A person can be detained without trial for 60 days under Poca and there is a provision for a two-year extension. Poca detainees are put either in detention centres or under house arrest with electronic devices attached to them.
The government had earlier imposed a moratorium on Sosma and Poca, as well as on two other laws, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) and the controversial Sedition Act.
Since coming to power in the May polls, the Pakatan Harapan government (PH), of which Maria is a part of, has assured that these four laws would be reviewed and if necessary abolished.
But early this month, the Cabinet agreed to allow police to probe the violence at the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Selangor under these laws and removed the moratorium.
According to its election manifesto, Poca, the Sedition Act and Sosma, as well as the mandatory death sentence in all existing laws, will be abolished by the end of its first term as the ruling government.
Meanwhile, vocal human rights lawyers N Surendran and Latheefa Koya from NGO Lawyers for Liberty questioned PH’s “U-turn” on the decision, and urged Muhyiddin not to go back on the promise.
“Poca allowed detention without trial like the Internal Security Act (ISA). It should not be used anymore.
“He should stop listening to certain elements in the police force and home ministry who want Poca to be retained,” said Surendran.
Unaware of proposed amendments, both Surendran and Latheefa asked how the “unjust” Sosma would be amended, adding if the said act was amended, it must eliminate all detentions and “unfair trials”. – FMT