Zahid Hamidi: EO replacement may still allow for detention without trial

(MM) – The new security law replacing the repealed Emergency Ordinance (EO) may end up looking very much like its forebear which had allowed detention without trial, the home minister hinted today.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (picture) told reporters there had been proposals to embed preventive detention provisions into the proposed law, a second draft of which will be ready by September.

“I cannot announce it now, (but) there are proposals,” he said, adding that the police needed to be empowered to act against offenders.

Ahmad Zahid acknowledged that such provisions, however, would be difficult to push through Parliament as it would draw much opposition from across the political divide and civil society.

“But I have to be rational as well, because the Bar Council and the opposition are not for it,” he said.

The home minister said his Cabinet colleagues, Datuk Paul Low and Datuk Nancy Shukri, who are both ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department, have been tasked with collecting input from the Bar Council, non-governmental organisations and politicians.

“Three ministers are coordinating … I have already given the note to both of them, I think we’re sitting down by next week,” Ahmad Zahid said.

The EO was a security law introduced after the 1969 race riots that allowed the authorities to detain a person without trial for up to two years, similar to the much-criticised Internal Security Act (ISA). Both were repealed in 2011.

The EO was usually enforced against hardcore gangsters but had also been applied to children who were held in the same detention facilities as adults.

Ahmad Zahid has been among the most vocal proponents for maintaining preventive security measures, which he argues is necessary to effectively curb crime.

The minister blamed the removal of the EO as contributing to a spike in crime.

“When robbers and criminals are released, they go on to have minions. They are the ones who commit street crimes. Try supporting the return of EO in a new name,” he said after opening the International Anti-Drug Day event here.

Ahmad Zahid was previously reported as saying the 2,600 people detained under the EO were now “roaming” the streets after being freed following its abolishment.

The police too have sought to attribute complaints of rising crime to the repeal of the EO, but it is unclear which crimes have a direct correlation with the released detainees.