Sunday, October 29, 2017

Infamous ISA no more - But 'worse' detention without trial laws continue to exist in Malaysia?

The draconian laws that provided for Detention Without Trial, namely the Internal Security Act(ISA) and Emergency Public Order and Prevention of Crime Ordinance 1969 (EO) may be no more, but in its place new laws have been put in place place that allow detention without trial mainly the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (POTA). The old Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA) was amended enabling it to be used for a wide variety of alleged crimes. We use the word 'alleged' because there is no way for the victims to challenge any of the alleged reasons used to detain and/or restrict them. That means a person under any of these Detention Without Trial laws, can wrongly be detained for 'ALLEGED' reasons with no way of challenging the reasons used. 
Dangerous Drugs(Special Preventive Measures) Act, the 3rd of the infamous Detention Without Trial Laws continues still to exist..
Media statement by DAP Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan and Publicity Secretary for Wanita DAP Kasthuri Patto in remembrance of 30 years of Operasi Lalang on Friday 27th October 2017 in Parliament Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

30 years after Operasi Lalang, and 5 years after the demise of the draconian Internal Security Act, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s track record after 8 years as Prime Minister shows he is determined to revive the ghost of political persecutions through laws that threaten fundamental liberties as a means to stay in power.

This October 27th will mark the 30th anniversary of the Operasi Lalang dragnet where the Barisan Nasional government victimised more than 106 men and women from all walks of life, accusing them to be enemies of the state and a threat to national security. Some were detained for a few days, some weeks, some a few months and some for the full 2 years. None had the opportunity to be brought to a court of law to be heard by a judge. All detainees under Operasi Lalang were denied justice which is a fundamental right in this country.

The ISA was “an act provides for the internal security of Malaysia, preventive detention, the prevention of subversion, the suppression of organized violence against persons and property in specified areas of Malaysia, and for matters incidental thereto”.

Section 8(B)(1) of the Internal Security Act on the judicial review of act or decision of Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Minister states “There shall be no judicial review in any court of, and no court shall have or exercise any jurisdiction in respect of, any act done or decision made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Minister in the exercise of their discretionary power in accordance with this Act..”

The glaring words here are “no judicial review” which is a denial of a right to a fair and free trial in a court of law in Malaysia.

Let us not forget the gallant speech made by Prime Minister Najib Razak on 15th September 2011, in celebrating Malaysia Day, to abolish the Internal Security Act, which was subsequently repealed in 2012. The nation rejoiced – in just 3 years of being Prime Minister, Najib had abolished an Act of 42 years, which was used as a weapon to silence voices of dissent, critiquing the establishment of abuses of power, corruption and potent race based and religious based politics. Politicians and civil society alike welcomed the move, seen as progressive and democratic by the Najib leadership to repeal this archaic act, albeit a great suspicion that a precious jewel like the ISA cannot be simply snuffed out.

The suspicion did not last long as the Peaceful Assembly Act which was forced through Parliament on 29th November 2011 and came into force in 2012, with great opposition from civil society, the Malaysian Bar and parliamentarians alike, being undemocratic and giving absolute powers to the police and the Home Minister. From here began an onslaught of an avalanche of repressive acts. The Security Offences (Special Measures) Act or SOSMA which was debated and passed into the wee hours of the morning in 2012 and further amended in 2017, amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act in 2015, the introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 2015, and finally the National Security Council Act debated, resisted and passed belligerently in the Dewan Rakyat in 2016. Not forgetting Section 124B of the Penal Code which explicitly yet vaguely criminalises activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy”, Section 124C which is “attempt to commit activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy”, and even Section 124D which states “printing, sale, etc., of documents and publication detrimental to parliamentary democracy”, including Section 124E which states “possession of documents and publication detrimental to parliamentary democracy”. POCA and SOSMA will be used for short term detention without trial, Section 124B of the Penal Code warrants for 20 years in prison for activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy, and the National Security Council Act which gives authoritarian, executive, emergency powers to the Prime Minister paving way for a sure abuse.

Under Najib’s administration, in such a short period of time, many laws had been amended including the introduction of new laws that continue to curb, restrict and restraint freedom to assemble, to speak and to publish as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

Despite having numerous laws passed and amended that is a threat to the Federal Constitution, parliamentary democracy and freedom under his own leadership since he took office in 2009, The Prime Minister's comments in Washington in September this year at theBanyan Tree Leadership forum by the US Center for Strategic and International Studies and Malaysia's Institute of Strategic and International Studies, is nothing but a farce and a joke when he said democracy is thriving where free speech is propagated. He couldn’t be further from the truth. He unashamedly also pointed out that some elements creating false impressions that Malaysia was in danger of sliding into a dictatorship.

The Prime Minister lacks enlightenment as legislations that are dictatorial in nature is a reflection of a  dictatorial government led by dictatorial leadership. Nothing more and nothing less.

Laws that threaten freedom of speech, religious freedom, fundamental liberties, democracy and justice, in its own right are detrimental to parliamentary democracy!

Regressive laws exist to keep governments in power as we have seen where many offences in the mentioned Acts, are not spelt out clearly giving an upper hand to the Government to detain anyone who intimidates them, even for life.

What is apparent in all these dictatorial oppressive acts is the denial of the right to be tried before a court of law, the right to be heard and the fundamental right of natural justice that has been extinguished all in the name of national security.

Instead of projecting to the world that the Barisan Nasional government is committed to burying the Operasi Lalang of 1987 by making progressive, democratic changes to the law, the Government has shown their lack of political will and insistence to uphold the spirit of the Federal Constitution which defends freedom, democracy, equality and justice for all.

30 years after Operasi Lalang and 8 years into the Najib administration, Malaysians are threatened with archaic, discriminatory, unjust laws that threaten democracy, freedom and equality exhuming the corpse of Operasi Lalang and the spirit of Internal Security Act is kept alive as a desperate means to cling on to power.

Kasthuri Patto
Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan
Democratic Action Party

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

BAR - Abolition of the Mandatory Death Penalty — No More Delay!

Press Release

Abolition of the Mandatory Death Penalty — No More Delay!

The World Day against the Death Penalty is commemorated on 10 October each year.

In Malaysia, the death penalty is mandatory for persons convicted of murder, trafficking in narcotics of various amounts, and discharging a firearm in the commission of various crimes (even where no one is hurt). 

The Malaysian Bar has been, and remains, in the frontline of the battle to uphold and preserve the rule of law, fundamental constitutional rights, the administration of justice, and law and order.  In this regard, we have consistently called for the abolition of the death penalty.  The Malaysian Bar at its Annual or Extraordinary General Meetings in 1985, 2006, 2012 and 2015 passed resolutions condemning the death penalty and/or calling for its abolition.

The campaign to abolish the death penalty is not meant to confer licence to commit serious crimes with impunity.  Persons convicted of serious crimes must receive proportionate punishment.  But this does not mean that they therefore ought to die.  

The Malaysian Bar has always taken the view that there is no empirical evidence or data that confirms that the death penalty serves as an effective deterrent to the commission of crimes.  There has been no significant reduction in the incidence of crimes for which the death penalty is currently mandatory.  This is particularly true of drug-related offences. 

In short, the death penalty does not work as a deterrent. 

The Malaysian Bar’s primary opposition to the death penalty is because life is sacred, and every person has an inherent right to life.  This is vouchsafed in Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which eschews the arbitrary deprivation of life.  The right to life is a fundamental right that must be absolute, inalienable and universal, irrespective of the crime committed by the accused person.

Recently, Minister Dato’ Sri Azalina Othman Said stated on 7 August 2017 that the Cabinet had approved the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences.  However, there has been no announcement of any timeline, or any release of draft legislation to this effect.  The Malaysian Bar calls upon the Government of Malaysia to introduce the amending legislation without further delay.  Any delay will mean more people being sentenced to die.

The Malaysian Bar further calls upon the Government to act swiftly to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, stop executions, and commute each death sentence to one of imprisonment.

George Varughese
Malaysian Bar

10 October 2017