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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Time to Use Back Act 82? I think so

When PM Najib Tun Razak announced that the government had agreed to repeal the Internal Security Act 1960 (Act 82), it was seen as a victory for democracy and liberalism in Malaysia. We believed that it was the right step forward towards the creation of a more liberal and mature society. In its place, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Act 747) was enacted, a so-called more humane law, with controls that prevent the law to be misused for political gain.
In hindsight, the victory was premature. Not that the Government has turned its back against the liberals, but the extremists had used this lack of preventive law as a no-holds barred license to wreck dissent amongst Malaysians.
Pre-2012, we rarely heard or see openly racial taunts, insults against religions, and more worryingly, calls for secessions. Few dared as the preventive law allows the police to recommend to the Home Minister for such persons to be detained under the act.
The painful experience of Sulu terrorists intrusions in Sabah had painted a very bleak picture on the ability of SOSMA to deal with individuals linked to terrorist groups. Of a total of 713 individuals (149 in red zone, balance outside red zone) arrested during the mopping up operations, only 104 were prosecuted under SOSMA.
To rub salt on the wound, it was discovered that many of the former ISA detainees previously arrested for involvement of terrorist activities had reverted back to their old activities. Yazid Sufaat, former Malaysian Army Captain turned Osama’s most trusted biological weapons specialist reverted to his old ways and was arrested in early 2013 for recruiting impressionable Muslim youths to join Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) (now known as Islamic State or IS and was also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Sham or ISIS) to fight the war in Syria against Bashar al Assad’s government. One of his associates, Halimah Hussein escaped police dragnet and is still on the loose.
Further to the discovery of Yazid Sufaat’s return to his old ways, another further revelation was made this year. Soon after Obama’s first presidential visit to Malaysia ended, at least 10 other Malaysians, both males and females were arrested for recruiting Malaysians on behalf of IS/ISIS/ISL (henceforth would be identified only as IS). To-date, around 23 had been arrested for conspiring with international terrorist organization. Another 5 individuals were also arrested during the period, 1 for involvement with al She’bab terrorist organization, which is a known al Qaeda-linked organization operating in Somalia, and 4 others were South Asians, believed to be in the midst of planning a bomb attack in India.
Another five individuals, one of them a former UM lecturer, managed to escape arrest and is now on the run.
It was during this period that PDRM via NST had finally confirmed that Jemaah Islamiyah or JI, helmed by the late Dr Azahari Hussein and Nordin Mat Top, had previously planned to attack several locations in KL in 2000, but was foiled by strong police presence and poorly executed plans. Amongst the targeted locations were a restaurant in Jalan Telawi and Bukit Aman. More disturbing was that at least 2 other groups, with core members believed to be former ISA detainees, to have decided to take up the mantle to continue the attack. Both groups were said to be linked to IS.
But the biggest question today is, what are the status of these suspects? Have they been prosecuted in court? Have the police managed to crack the case wide open? Or worse still, have the police been forced to release these suspects due to lack of evidence?
Does SOSMA have teeth strong enough to bite these terrorists? Or is it a leash that only tighten itself around the neck of our officers who valiantly place their lives in danger for our safety? And with that, may be it is time for us to wipe off the dust that had settled on Act 82 and to return it to active use.
No offence to Act 747 supporters. It will work, in a society that is civil, liberal and mature. But we are now facing a very strong threat against way of life, sovereignity and security. And if Uncle Sam choose to establish their PATRIOT Act, and Singapore still maintains their own version of ISA, did we erred in our decision? As the Malay peribahasa has once said, kalau sesat, kembalilah ke pangkal jalan (transliterated as if you are lost, return to the point you began).

An edited version of this article was published by The Star on 18 August 2014 and can be found here: 

It can also be found here at DSGC Review.

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