Nazri: Only one ISA replacement law

There is no other legislation, says the de facto law minister.

Nazri Aziz

(FMT) — The Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill 2012, tabled for the first time yesterday, is the sole preventive legislation that would replace the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA).

“There is only this law, there is no other legislation. This is the one we were talking about, supposedly called the anti-terrorism law,” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz said yesterday.

Nazri, who was briefing reporters details of the new proposed Act, was responding to queries about Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s previous announcement that the government planned to repeal the ISA and replace it with two new laws.

“This is actually the Terrorism Act… we did not say it as such because we didn’t want to scare people, we didn’t want the same stigma the ISA had,” he said.

Unlike its “predecessor”, ISA, which encompassed a wide range of internal security issues – including production of fake coins – Nazri said the new Bill focuses on specific offences.

“Under the ISA, there are no [specific] offences. It’s not good. [But in the new law], only when there are offences can we charge the person. You must be guilty of something first,” he said.

Nazri added that these “offences” will be further clarified and new offences related to “espionage” and “action against parliamentary democracy” are being created.

“I am very pleased with this [Security Offences Act] because it goes to show that the government is listening, and we feel that this is the appropriate time to repeal ISA.”

“Our society has matured; things which would have caused race riots in the past now do not seem to trigger people to start attacking each other based on racial or religious differences,” he said.

“Malaysians are more tolerant; in fact I’d like to say it’s not a question about tolerance, it’s accepting that we do have differences but it doesn’t mean that we should be divisive. It should unite us more.”

Criminal offences

Asked about a section in the Bill which states that a person can be detained indefinitely even after being acquitted in court of a security offence until all legal avenues are disposed of, Nazri denied

that it constituted “wrongful confinement”.

“You must understand this is security offences. You must differentiate this from criminal offences. These people may be involved in offences more dangerous than crime.

“For example, if a person is a JI member and the court found him innocent… it will take time to appeal, but while awaiting grounds of judgment, does that mean that we allow him to walk off? He might just disappear and cause more damage,” he said.

Nazri added that it was up to the court to decide if bail should be granted, and not up to a minister.

“We’re not giving the minister any power, we are asking the courts [to decide]. It’s the court’s discretion: if the court feels that it’s not dangerous, then bail is given. Isn’t it the right thing to do rather than getting a minister to sign it?”

Asked about the electronic monitoring device that the police can fit on a security suspect, Nazri reiterated that the Act deals with security and not normal crimes.

‘Big step forward’

“So you have to treat the [suspect] different from a criminal. During that time, we might gather some evidence, and continue monitoring him after we have ‘released’ him,” Nazri said.

Although he said that details were still unclear, he understood that the devices were bracelets put on the legs.

Meanwhile, Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar said that the new proposed Act was a “big step forward for civil society”.

“I am glad that the perpetual two-year renewals for ISA was done away with. Now it’s only 28 days and you must either charge or release your suspect,” he said.

Jeyakumar agreed that terrorism was a reality but warned that the new law should not be used improperly like how the ISA was [used and] abused previously.

“Offences such as ‘exciting disaffection against the Agong’ are too loosely worded.”

“It could be stretched… for example, if I complain about GST [Goods and Services Tax] and say that the government is unfair… they can say that it is the Agong’s government.”

Yesterday, Nazri tabled the the Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill 2012.

The proposed Act seeks to “repeal the ISA while recognising the grave risks to internal security and public order presented by the threat of terrorism, sabotage and espionage”.

The objective of the bill was to “provide for special measures relating to security offences for the purpose of maintaining public order and security and for connected matters”.

The law cannot be used against people based on their political leanings, and does away with the home minister’s powers to extend a detention indefinitely.

There is also “no more” detention without trial as Section 12 of the bill states that “all security offences shall be tried by the High Court”.