M’sia to abolish detention without trial – again

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It would be the second time since 2012 that Malaysia will abolish its law allowing the authorities to detain suspects without trial.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamed, said on Sunday that his government will repeal the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) which was instituted by the former administration of Najib Razak in 2012.

“Najib’s law allows a person to be arrested and not to be taken to court, and if that person died, there will be neither inquiry nor action taken against those who killed him,” Dr Mahathir said at a fundraising event in Klang. “That is the law passed by Najib and we will repeal that law.”

“The people will be protected by fair laws so that if they committed any offence, they will be judged by the court … the court will determine whether or not the person is guilty,” he added.

Mr Najib had abolished the Internal Security Act (ISA) in 2011, and replaced it with SOSMA which, critics said, gave the government just as much powers as the ISA. The introduction of the new law was also seen by international human rights groups as a step backward for freedom and democracy and the rule of law in Malaysia.

SOSMA, unlike its predecessor, does not outline any crime on its own, said Malaysian human rights body, Suaram. The law, the organisation said, was “a tool to silence political opposition and restrict freedom of expression.”

SOSMA was widely seen as Mr Najib’s attempt to curb criticisms and detain his political opponents following election results which saw his ruling Barisan Nasional coalition losing the popular vote, and amid then emerging accusations of corruptions.

In the May general elections this year, the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition swept to a landslide victory, as corruption accusation surrounding state fund 1MDB swirled around Mr Najib.

On 4 July, Mr Najib was arrested by the authorities over suspected 1MDB-related corrupt practices.

Last week, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, gave assurance that SOSMA would be repealed, as promised in Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto, but he said that it would take time.

“We have received a memorandum from a non-governmental organisation, comprising more than 400 families of those who have been detained under Sosma,” he said.

“The Government wants to abolish Sosma, but it will take time. I will bring this matter to the Cabinet based on their request.”