PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar wants the government to use laws other than preventive and repressive legislation against the suspects detained in connection with the fracas at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in USJ25, near Subang Jaya, last week.
Its president George Varughese said such action would give rise to the irresistible inference in the public’s mind that the Pakatan Harapan government did not make its election promises in good faith.
“It is extremely disappointing that the government has backpedalled so quickly, particularly when there are other laws to adequately deal with the situation,” he said in a statement.
He did not specify what the other laws were but he could possibly be referring to provisions in the Penal Code that deal with death, injury or loss of property due to violence.
He said this in response to Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement last week that the Cabinet had decided to withdraw the moratorium and use the Sedition Act, Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) and Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca) to deal with violence at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Seafield, Subang Jaya.
Varughese noted that three weeks ago Muhyiddin informed the public that a draft to review the preventive detention laws was at the final stage and would be tabled in Parliament soon.
He also said the statement by Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo that the moratorium was limited to incidents that threatened national security, public order, and race relations, was ironic.
He said the previous Barisan Nasional government had often justified its use of those repressive laws on the same basis.
“By withdrawing the moratorium, the PH government is reneging on its commitment made in its election manifesto to abolish laws that it had itself described as oppressive and tyrannical,” he said.
Varughese said the government’s pledge would ring hollow if it was to resort to the very draconian laws that it had denounced previously when used by the BN administration.
He said the Bar had repeatedly called for the urgent repeal of the repressive laws as they were unconstitutional and against natural justice.
“These laws have been abused in the past and while they remain on the statute book, the potential for misuse remains,” he said.
Varughese said the wrongdoers in the temple incident should be punished if found guilty but police must conduct a thorough investigation regarding the alleged criminal acts with competence and dedication.
“If there are gaps in laws to effectively deal with security concerns, existing laws can be amended or appropriate new laws enacted, without recourse to the repressive laws that the government had promised to abolish,” he said.
He said the government must reinstate the moratorium imposed on these laws and work to repeal them without delay.