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Malaysia Revives ‘Detention Without Trial’ Law

According to the government, the new law will empower police to defeat organized crime. Photo by Deucrox99, Wikipedia (CC License)

According to the government, the new law will empower police to defeat organized crime. Photo by Deucrox99, Wikipedia (CC License)

To defeat organized crime, Malaysia has passed an amendment to the Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) of 1959 which would empower authorities to detain criminals and gangsters for up to two years even without trial.

The government asserted that a tough measure like the PCA is needed to address the problem of rising criminality in the country. It blamed the repeal of the controversial Emergency Ordinance (EO) and Internal Security Act (ISA) for the recent surge of crimes. For a long time, the EO and ISA were cited by the opposition as draconian measures which were often used by the government to detain or harass political dissenters.

The PCA amendment was passed early this month although critics have accused the administration of railroading the approval of the measure in parliament.

The government assured the public that the new law will not be used against critics and the opposition. It clarified that the provisions in the law are fair and transparent. But this assurance didn’t stop many groups from protesting and raising their objections against several aspects of the measures.

William Leong, Member of Parliament for Selayang, emphasized that ‘high-quality policing’ is needed to combat criminality:

…what Malaysian citizens need is not a convenient tool or temporary measure for the executive to simply persecute individuals in addressing the spate of crime, but essentially, a high-quality policing that is capable of curbing the crime rate in the long run without violating the fundamental rights of citizens.

Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, parliamentarian for Sepang, described the PCA as a bad law and wrong medicine for the social problems of Malaysia:

The amended PCA is a bad law. It prescribes the wrong medicine for our social maladies. Even if proving a case in court is hard in cases of mafia-type criminal activity, the solution lies elsewhere.

The police force needs to be upgraded and modernised toward professionalism.

Meanwhile, Tan Sri Robert Phang of Social Care Foundation understands the necessity of introducing new laws to tackle the changing patterns of crime:

Today's crime pattern is very different from those of yesteryears. Do not oppose for the sake of opposing. A shooting case happens almost every other day and it involves ordinary people. This is frightening.

Changes take place every now and then. Today, the police may be well-equipped, but we cannot rule out the possibility that gangster heads are able to position themselves better using the Internet.

This is a real war against criminals. Therefore, the right law must be in place.

But Tan Sri Simon Sipaun of Proham decried the reintroduction of arrest without trial:

The latest nail on the coffin of human rights in Malaysia was in the form of the amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (PCA) which have been bulldozed and passed by Parliament just after mid night on October 2, 2013.

The ISA has come back with a vengeance. It is ISA 2. Arrest without trial represents one of the worse forms of human rights violations. It is a common feature in totalitarian states. If the government has enough evidence to arrest a person it should have enough materials to charge that person.

The Malaysian Bar, the Sabah Law Association and the Advocates Association of Sarawak rejected the amendments that would diminish Malaysia’s adherence to international human rights standards:

…the answer to the fight against crime cannot lie in re-introducing laws that diminish our adherence to the rule of law, due process and constitutional safeguards. The proposed draconian amendments are not a reflection of the state of crime in our country. Rather it speaks of the inadequacies and inability of the police to deal with crime in a proper way.

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