In a rare event, a government motion was defeated in the Dewan Rakyat today, resulting in calls for home minister Hamzah Zainudin to resign.
The government did not expect Hamzah’s motion to extend the provision on the maximum 28-day detention without trial period of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 for another five years to be voted down.
“… 84 agree, 86 disagree, 50 absent. The motion is not approved,” announced Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Harun.
This was met by chants of “Hidup Rakyat!” from opposition MPs. Hamzah was also faced with calls for his resignation after Azhar announced the result of the vote.
Hamzah (Bersatu-Larut) had proposed that the Dewan Rakyat extend the enforcement of sub-section 4(5), which allows a maximum 28-day detention without trial, for another five years beginning July 31.
Sub-section 4(5) of Sosma enables police to detain a person suspected of being involved in terrorist activities for a period not exceeding 28 days for investigations.
Sub-section 4(11), meanwhile, states that sub-section 4(5) shall be reviewed every five years and shall cease to have effect when both the Dewan Rakyat and the Dewan Negara vote against extending it.
This provision must be renewed by both houses of Parliament every five years to remain valid.
Azhar had given the MPs 10 minutes to vote and had a hard time controlling the Dewan Rakyat when parliamentarians from both sides accused each other of entering the hall after the voting had started.
The Speaker then ruled that the votes of MPs who were not present when voting had started would not be taken into account.
Shouts of, “Bagan Datuk (Ahmad Zahid Hamidi), Pekan (Najib Razak) are not present, they don’t support the prime minister” and “The (home) minister has to resign,” were heard from the opposition bench.
Several Opposition MPs, who had earlier insisted on the abolition of Sosma during the debates, were heard cheering and celebrating the announcement made by Azhar that the motion had been defeated.
Prior to the vote, Hamzah said sub-section 4(5) of Sosma should be extended as a 28-day detention period was required to give police sufficient time to investigate security offences.
“Furthermore, the investigation of cases involving security offences, especially terrorism and organised crime, is complex,” he said.
“(It is also) time-consuming to obtain relevant evidence for prosecution purposes, including tracking down accomplices who are still at large.”
He also said that Sosma detention will not be used against any politician.
Hamzah said that he will never abolish Sosma as it is crucial for the nation’s security.
However, he said that certain provisions in Sosma can be reviewed in time to come.
Salahuddin Ayub (Pulai-PH) chastised Hamzah for declaring that Sosma would not be used against the government’s political opponents.
He reminded the Dewan Rakyat of similar pledges made in the past about the usage of the ISA, which was repealed in 2012.
“History has shown that the ISA was repealed due to the cruel nature of the Act. For decades the law was abused, although it was initially enacted to combat the communist threat,” he said.
“The Home Ministry at the time gave an assurance that no politicians will be detained under the Act, because its focus was to combat communism and any armed insurgency against the country and king.
“But as time went by, that was not the case. Maybe you (Hamzah) were never detained under the ISA, but many of my friends were.”
Ramkarpal Singh (Bukit Gelugor-PH), who also protested against the motion, suggested that instead of extending the detention period, the ministry could under the criminal procedure code extend detention from 24 hours to 48 hours.
He said the extension of 28 days without court involvement opens up room for abuse of power by the police.
“Imagine if a person could be arrested by a policeman above the rank of a superintendent. Imagine a person can be picked up by the police officer and detained for 20 days or even 28 days without the involvement of the court. Isn’t this opening up to the abuse of power?” he asked.
“That is a genuine concern that needs to be taken into account or considered by the ministry,” he said.
“There is no rationale for extending up to 28 days…almost a month. I object to this amendment and hope that the Home Ministry will consider the issues raised by the other MPs,” he said.
R Sivarasah (PH-Sungai Buloh) said that the provisions excluded the courts from acting as a check and balance involving detention of suspects under Sosma.
He said that criminal suspects are usually detained for a maximum of 14 days under the Criminal Procedure Code, which is subject to approval by the Magistrates Court.
Mohamed Hanipa Maidin (PH-Sepang) said going against Sosma did not mean that they supported terrorism.
“Sosma is a cruel law, anyone who wishes to uphold justice must think about fairness even when it comes to the accused,” he said.
Kasthuri Patto (PH-Batu Kawan) claimed that Sosma was used as a political tool to detain Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah in 2016 when she led the Bersih movement.
“She was detained merely because she was championing for a free and fair democratic process,” she said.