Malaysia does not need any replacements for the Internal Security Act (ISA), lawyers groups said today, noting that the country has ample legal options to deal with terrorism threats. While “applauding” the government’s plans to repeal the ISA and review security laws, the Malaysian Bar, Advocates’ Association of Sarawak and Sabah Law Association insisted that the country’s penal laws were more than enough to deal with terrorism-related offences.
In a joint statement, the groups pointed out that terrorism-related offences were included in the 2006 Penal and Criminal Procedure Code and that Malaysia had also passed a legislation dealing with offences related to financing of terrorism, in the form of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001.
“No replacement is, therefore, needed for the ISA,” said three groups said.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced reforms to the country’s security and press laws last night, and the lifting of three Emergency Declarations when both the Dewan Negara and Dewan Rakyat sit next.
Apart from repealing the ISA and amending provisions in the Police Act regarding peaceful assembly, the prime minister also announced that the government will do away with the annual printing and publishing permits requirement as provided under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA).
In response, the lawyers’ groups urged Putrajaya to emulate countries such as Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States if it still wanted to include additional laws to deal with terrorism.
They said that the additional laws should include “safeguards” such as an automatic clause to allow reviews of the said laws at regular intervals as well as a comprehensive judicial supervision to permit a review of the legislation in specific cases.
“(There should also be) limitations on the period of detention, subject to ordinary remand provisions and right to counsel for all detained persons,” added the statement.
The associations further said that the safeguards are essential to prevent abuse of any new counter-terrorism laws, and stressed that the application of the laws be subjected to judicial scrutiny.
“The Malaysian government should do likewise, and remove the excessive discretion that now lies with the Minister of Home Affairs,” said the lawyers.
Lim Guan Eng today expressed disappointment that the government plans to replace the ISA with two new security laws, and argued that the reforms announced by Najib last night fell short of being meaningful.
Saying he welcomed the prime minister’s move to repeal the ISA, the Penang chief minister was still concerned the introduction of two new laws in its place meant the exercise may be a repackaging of the controversial Act.
“Yes, of course it is good news but if it is going to be replaced by another two laws, then is there just going to be another two ISAs?
“We do not want to see a situation where you are pouring old wine in a new bottle,” he told a press conference here.