Malaysia’s Expanded National Security Powers Now in Force

BenarNews Staff
160801-MY-security-620.jpg Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak offers a prayer during the Warriors’ Day Celebration in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, July 31, 2016.

Embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak gained new powers Monday as a new law went into effect that expands the reach of the National Security Council (NSC), which he chairs.

Under the NSC Act, the prime minister is empowered to declare any place a security area for six months at a time, subject to renewal. The NSC may then order the deployment of any security forces or other government personnel to the area in question.

The law also allows the NSC to authorize stops, searches and arrests of people, as well as searches of and seizure of private property, without a warrant, legal experts say.

“There is good reason to fear that the act will be yet another tool in the hands of the government to crack down on peaceful protests under the guise of national security,” Josef Benedict, deputy director for South East Asia and the Pacific for Amnesty International, said in a statement Monday.

“The Najib government is increasingly resorting to repressive new laws that are said to protect national security but in practice imperil human rights.”

Malaysia’s NSC consists of the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the ministers of defense, home affairs, communications and multimedia, the chief of the armed forces, the national police chief and the government’s chief secretary.

Najib and other top officials have argued that such measures are necessary due to a threat posed by the so-called Islamic State (IS) and other transnational terrorist groups.

“I can assure Malaysians that the government will continue to put all possible measures in place to protect you. Daesh (another name for the Islamic State) and its cruel, perverted ideology have no place in Islam, nor in our peaceful, diverse and tolerant country,” Najib said in a statement posted on his website last week.

“Now is the time for us to unite and play an even greater part alongside the world community in the fight against terrorism.”

Since last year Malaysian authorities have arrested dozens of suspected IS members, and have warned that Malaysians returning from combat stints with IS in Syria or Iraq could launch terrorist attacks on home soil.

Police believe that IS was behind a grenade attack that injured several people at a nightclub on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur last month.

Highly unusual

Approved in parliament in December 2015, the NSC Act did not receive consent from the Conference of Rulers – a body of sultans, rajas and governors that normally grants royal approval of a bill 30 days after it is presented to the king.

That is highly unusual, according to civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan.

“I personally do not know why the Conference of Rulers asked for a review of the bill, but this law would allow the government to bypass the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (king) altogether” in declaring a security emergency, Syahredzan told BenarNews.

Najib has faced calls for his resignation over the past year in light of an ongoing scandal involving more than $1 billion in funds stolen from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund he oversees, known as1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB.

In the last year, his government has blocked websites of local news organizations that were reporting on the 1MDB affair and those of grassroots groups that were organizing street demonstrations calling for his resignation.

Laurent Meillan, the Bangkok-based acting regional representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), expressed concern that the new law could erode human rights and restrict freedom of expression and assembly.

“We are gravely concerned that the immunity provisions in the act may encourage human rights violations,” he said in a statement on Friday.

“We call on the government to revise the act to bring it in line with international human rights norms and standards. Furthermore, we encourage the government to allow for an open and transparent consultation process on the provisions in the act with all relevant stakeholders.”


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