KUALA LUMPUR: A security law passed in 2012 must be abolished as the government has abused it to silence critics, a Bar Council member said.
Ravi Nekoo said this law has been used against three persons, the latest being Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah on grounds her act was “detrimental to parliamentary democracy”.
“Prime Minister Najib Razak did not keep to his promise when the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act or Sosma was introduced,” he told a forum themed, Sosma: The new ISA?
He said this was similar to the introduction of the now repealed Internal Security Act in 1960 to counter the communist insurgency.
Ravi, the Bar Council’s National Legal Aid Bureau chairperson, said the ISA was later used against government dissidents and others, including NGO members and journalists.
He said Najib had assured that Sosma, a procedural law, would be used to check extremism and terrorism in the country and which originated outside Malaysia.
“Section 4(3) of Sosma details out that no person will be arrested and detained solely for his political belief or political activity. But is this the case?” he asked.
Last year, 1MDB critics, Khairuddin Abu Hassan and lawyer Matthias Chang were detained under Sosma for allegedly sabotaging the nation’s banking and financial services. Both men are close associates of Najib’s fiercest critic, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
However, the High Court later found that the sabotage charge against Khairuddin and Chang did not fall under the purview of Sosma.
The judge then granted them bail at RM10,000 each with a single surety pending the outcome of their trial in the Sessions Court. The government is appealing the ruling.
On Nov 18, a police party had raided the Bersih office and seized documents which they claimed showed the electoral reform group had received foreign funding for its activities.
Maria was arrested the same day, which was the eve of the Bersih 5 rally in Kuala Lumpur. She was later said to have been detained under Sosma but was freed 10 days later after having been in solitary confinement throughout her detention.
Meanwhile, lawyer Sivarasa Rasiah said, while he recognised that Sosma could be used to check militant activities, there was no sufficient safeguards against abuse.
” A Sosma detainee could be held up to 28 days without judicial scrutiny and bail is not allowed for suspects who are charged with ‘activities against parliamentary democracy’,” he said.
He said even in Indonesia and the United Kingdom, those charged with terrorism offences enjoy an open and transparent trial and this was missing in Sosma.
Meanwhile, the Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee co-chairman Andrew Khoo said like the ISA, Sosma only served to enhance the reputaton of detainees.
He said Malaysia’s sincerity in the international community as a genuine partner in the global war against terrorism could be questioned if laws were abused.
“If we cry wolf too often, we will not be believed,” Khoo said.