What is the National Security Council Act?
The National Security Council (NSC) Act was introduced to the Parliament (Dewan Rakyat) in the last days of Parliamentary session of 2015 and was bulldozed through the Parliament by the Barisan Nasional Member of Parliaments. On the 22nd of December 2015, this Act has gone through the second reading at the Senate (Dewan Negara) and was once again passed with the overwhelming support by Barisan Nasional senators.
In broad strokes, the Act would:
- Empower the National Security Council with power to declare a ‘state of emergency’ in a designated area (also known as security area);
- Grant unprecedented powers to make arrests and conduct forced evacuation to the security forces stationed in the area;
- Allow security forces to use lethal force as they find necessary;
- Grant all member of the council and those operating under it complete exemption from legal liabilities and prosecutions.
The Government reasons for introducing the National Security Council Act
The key reason behind the introduction of this Act was supposedly to provide adequate provisions for the security forces and all relevant government agencies in responding to threat to national security. The attack in Paris and the rising terror threat have been mentioned countless times by the Members of Parliament and Senators from Barisan Nasional throughout the discussion of the Act in both House of Parliament.
The concerns raised by civil societies
Civil societies across Malaysia have spoken up against the introduction of this Act and have tried to convince the Government of Malaysia and their representatives in Parliament to reconsider and amend the proposed bill. Unfortunately, these concerns have fell on deaf ears and the bill have been pushed through both the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara.
The key matter of concern raised by the civil societies have not been adequately answered by any of the Barisan Nasional representative and have even been ridiculed by them.
The key matter of concerns raised include:
- The ambiguous and broad situation where a place can be declared ‘security area’;
- The wide purview of controversial matters that fall under the NSC including but not limited to socio-political stability, economic stability and national unity;
- The significant power vested in the Prime Minister through this Act;
- The room for security forces and those commanding them to act with impunity as there is little to no legal obligation for them to act in accordance with the law.
While the full list of concerns and flaws that are inherent in this Act cannot be adequately covered in this brief introduction, the few points mentioned above have been the highlights raised by civil societies and opposition parties.
National Security Council and its Human Rights impact
The broad powers given to the NSC will put many human rights principle in jeopardy. This is largely caused by the lack of accountability in the decision making process and the powers granted to the security forces, their leaders and the NSC. The implementation of the NSC Act would by default ‘neutralize’ the constitutional rights of all Malaysian under article 5 (Right to Liberty of Person), 10 (Right to Speech, Assembly and Association), and 13 (Right to Property). Even when the security area is lifted, there is no redress for the victims of human rights violations as there can be no inquest into the death caused by the security forces and no means to challenge the reparation paid for the properties damaged.
If we put the power of the NSC and the security forces in the context of the Universal Declaration, it could potentially operate in a manner that contravenes Article 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, and 26. Each of the rights under the UDHR can be referred to at http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
How would it affect us?
If the powers vested in the NSC is used in good faith by the Government, we would be extremely fortunate as the only concern that we should have as Malaysia is the fact that the power conferred by the NSC Act conflict with Article 149 and Article 150 of the Federal Constitution.
However, if the Government of Malaysia choose to abuse the NSC, they would have the ultimate power to silence all form of political dissent with the power vested in the NSC. As an example, if a political party have been too vocal for the NSC’s liking, they may declare the political party’s office a security area and raze its structure and arrests all of its member found within the ‘security area’ without any justification.
Alternately, peaceful protests by non-political groups such as Bersih and other civil societies can also be given the same treatment. Theoretically if the NSC Act was passed and came into force before Bersih 4.0, the NSC can declare the areas surrounding Dataran Merdeka or the whole Kuala Lumpur as a security area and proceed to arrests or shoot all of the participants of the rally without the need of any proper justification and rationale.
Would this be possible?
The sceptical would naturally feel apprehensive regarding the concerns raised above. While their scepticism is not necessarily misplaced, there are two strong reasons why such concerns may not be the prophecy of a doomsayer:
- The Government of Malaysia have set out a campaign to prosecute human rights defenders under various laws throughout 2015 and have even arrested ‘Gig goers’ under the Sedition Act 1948;
- If the Government of Malaysia was genuine with their concern for national security, there are many alternatives that would be acceptable and recognized internationally;
Now that the Senate (Dewan Negara) have approved the bill, it now falls to the Agong to sign off on the Act before it would be passed into law. Unfortunately, even if the Agong refuse to sign the bill, the bill will still automatically come into force after a month. After that, it is only a matter of time before the relevant ministry gazette the Act of Parliament and set a date for it to ‘come into force’.
Putting that into context, the Act would likely be an Act of Parliament by February next year and can come into force any time after that.
What can we do?
As individuals, there is not a lot that we can do. As a collective group of concerned Malaysians, we would be able to ensure some degree of accountability and perhaps force the Government of Malaysia to repeal or withdraw the Act. The best way forward at this point is to take collective action through groups or organization that you are familiar with.
Independent actions to raise awareness on the danger of the National Security Council Act would always be welcomed. Lobbying with your local Member of Parliament is also a viable option especially when they are aligned with Barisan Nasional.
To make our collective struggle as Malaysians more effective, it would be ideal if any actions taken can be taken together as part of the #TakNakDiktator campaign. Further details regarding the #TakNakDiktator campaign can be found at #TakNakDiktator Facebook Page. Alternately, feel free to contact any of the civil societies aligned with the #TakNakDiktator campaign.
Civil Societies aligned with #TakNakDiktator:
- Amnesty International Malaysia
- Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4)
- National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)
- Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (IKRAM)
- Institut Rakyat
- Lawyers for Liberty
- Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Malaysia (PROHAM)
- Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)