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20th July 2022

It is unusual and unparliamentary for the same minister who has his governmental motion or bill defeated and only for him to immediately retable it in the next parliamentary session. On 23rd March, parliament has made it clear that it has disagreed with what the Home Minister has proposed by voting to not extend the power of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) to detain an individual without trial for not more than 28 days. Therefore, we are disappointed that the motion to reactivate SOSMA’s pretrial detention was scheduled for a debate and vote on 20th July 2022 even though the matter has been decided during the previous session. Therefore, in the spirit of respecting the will of parliament and in the name of the right to a fair trial, SUARAM would like to urge all MPs, both from both the government and opposition, to vote against the motion to extend section 4(5) of SOSMA.

SUARAM maintains that SOSMA which allows detention without trial should be abolished entirely because it severely undermines the principles of the right to fair trial as enshrined in Malaysia’s federal constitution. To recap, SOSMA is a procedural law that operates in lieu of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) when an individual is detained for suspected internal security offences described under Chapters VI (against the State), VI A (terrorism-related) and VI B (organised crime) of the Penal Code; the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 (ATIPSOM); and the Special Measures Against Terrorism in Foreign Countries Act 2015. In other words, SOSMA’s 28 days detention without trial would only be applicable to these aforementioned offences.

After the motion was defeated in March, the Royal Malaysian Police has swiftly released a statement accepting the fact that SOSMA would not be used beyond its expiry date on 31st July 2022. Instead, the CPC and other relevant acts would be used for any potential arrest, detention and investigation pertaining to these security offences that falls under the purview of SOSMA. The statement, therefore, has revealed that Malaysia’s very own Criminal Procedure Code is sufficient and equipped for the police to address these security offences, without the need of a repressive SOSMA. Instead of using SOSMA which not only allows 28 days of pretrial detention, limited access to legal counsel and strict bail conditions, we are of the view that the Criminal Procedure Code is a better safeguard against any potential abuse of power while also granting the police sufficient power to act on security offences.

Parliamentarians also should take into account that this was a government motion that was previously defeated and the matter should only be brought to parliament again either the motion has been amended significantly to take into account of the previous defeat or brought forward by a different home minister or government.

Since there are only 12 working days for this parliamentary session, the time to debate legislation should be better spent on those bills such as the anti-sexual harassment and anti-hopping bill, that has not been voted on in Parliament yet. The re-tabling of the SOSMA motion would only create the practice that the government would just keep tabling its defeated motion until the parliament wills it. Therefore, the time for other parliamentary businesses would be reduced because of a motion that has been decided previously and this may hamper the whole legislature procedure.

It is for these reasons that SUARAM would like to urge all the sitting MPs to vote against the reactivation of section 4(5) of SOSMA.

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