TODAY is the day that the National Security Council (NSC) Act takes effect. The controversial Act became law after the end of the 30-day period without the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s express assent (as permitted by Article 66(4A) of the Federal Constitution) and what seemingly viewed by many as a ‘rushed job’ to pass it in Parliament on February 18, 2016.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak defended the security law as an affirmative action against terrorism. The NSC Act is aimed to strengthen the existing National Security Council to becoming a more efficient and effective security body in coordinating and streamline the country’s security strategies and policies. It also further strengthens the existing Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, Special Measures against Terrorism in Foreign Countries Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act and National Security Act in response the growing number of “terrorist outrages around the world”.
“We were criticised for passing these laws,” Najib said, adding that critics included “some who fear mongered for political reasons”. They “deliberately misinterpret” the NSC Act and mislead the public into unnecessary confusion and unrest to detract the Bill from coming to pass.
Under the new law, the Prime Minister is empowered to declare an area a security zone for six months at a time. The NSC may then direct the deployment of any security forces or any other Government entities to the area which can stop and search any individual, vehicle, vessel, aircraft in the area without a warrant, as well as enter and search any premise or place. The Director of Operations may order the exclusion, evacuation, or resettlement of persons and failure to obey may result in, if convicted, a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or jail for a term not exceeding three years or both.
Given the rise of threats from non-state actors, specifically from the terror group Islamic State Daesh, Najib said that there was a need to bring it on par with similar agencies in the United States, Japan, Britain and other countries. “My government must put the safety and security of the Malaysian people first” he added.
The Police has arrested over 100 individuals linked with the IS group since last year and has thwarted multiple plans and attempts by these IS recruits to cause mayhem and kill innocent lives here in Malaysia and abroad. Even the tireless efforts of the Police is not enough when on June 28, a grenade attack on the Movida bar in Puchong, Selangor that injured eight patrons was the first successful strike on home ground by IS militants.
To add fuel to the fire, there has been a steady rise of violent crimes involving firearms by underground syndicates and criminals. The drive-by shootings and murders of high profiled civilians in Miri, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor in on high the past few months just to name a few.
There is only so much that the police and other security agencies can do to fight against the growing threat to our peaceful country. It is hoped that with the NSC Act, IS groups and syndicated criminal rings will face a tough time to raise terror and cause havoc.
The government does acknowledges criticism over the security law. The attorney general’s chambers had cleared the bill of any constitutional breaches and reiterated that the NSC bill does not grant emergency powers to the Council or the prime minister. If one studies the Bill carefully, it appears to provide checks and balances.
It is also not the same as a declaration of national emergency in which the power still lies with the King and parliament still retains oversight over any security area declared. The NSC Act allows fast and decisive action against possible security threats based on reliable intelligence information before the threats becomes imminent and the unthinkable happens
Although there are some key matters of concerns that was highlighted by the United Nations (UN) and several local and international based non-governmental organizations (NGO), It is not a draconian Act or just another tool of repression.
However, the skeptics and critics are not to blame for the ‘confusion’, considering the way the NSC Act was ‘rushed’ and passed through Parliament, let alone several key matter of concern raised by these quarters have not been adequately answered by any of the Barisan Nasional representative. It is hoped that the government will hold awareness programs and talks to engage the people in shedding some light to the NSC Act.
The government must also emphasize the importance of the NSC Act as a means to safeguard national security and ensuring the continuity of the peaceful way of life in the midst of growing global and local terrorist threats. And to do this, it has a ‘price’. It is a delicate and complex balance that all governments of the world faces to ensure its people and country is safe from these threats, whilst upholding the fundamentals of human rights and democratic rule.
To quote Najib, “Now is the time for us to unite and play an even greater part alongside the world community in the fight against terrorism.”
Casius Junut is an independent analyst and Malaysian Access reader. Article written is strictly his personal view. Malaysian Access does not necessarily endorse the opinions given by any third party content provider.