Thursday, October 3, 2013

Amendments to Prevention of Crime Act passed with 2-year detention without trial

BY EILEEN NG AND JENNIFER GOMEZ
OCTOBER 03, 2013
Putrajaya rolled back on its reform agenda and reintroduced preventive detention through amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act (PCA) which was passed by parliament at 12.50am on Thursday after the clock was "stopped" to enable the debates to go on.
This is the fourth time in Malaysian history that Parliament had to "stop" the clock to allow lawmakers to debate.
The opposition has, in the run-up to the passage of the bill, repeatedly said the changes were similar to the repealed Internal Security Act (ISA), which allowed for detention without trial.
Tonight, the Barisan Nasional (BN) used its superior numbers to pass the contentious proposed amendments to the PCA.
At the final count, the Bill was passed with a voice vote, where there were more "ayes" from the BN side than "nays" from their Pakatan Rakyat counterparts.
This means the controversial amendments tabled in Parliament last week remained in the PCA.
The amendments include detention without trial, restrictions on judial reviews, secrecy provisions and recital of Article 149 in the preamble, which the opposition claims is inconsistent with basic human rights guaranteed in the Federal Constitution.
The members of parliament from Pakatan Rakyat, who had earlier this week submitted nine proposed changes to the PCA, were defeated at every division vote and voice vote.
However, Ahmad Zahid kept his promise to allow for some minor changes, including adding two more members to the initial three-man Prevention of Crime Board.
The board will be set up with reports on detainees to be presented to the board instead of the minister.
He also said that there will still be an avenue for a review of detention at the High Court through habeas corpus.
In responding to claims that the Prime Minister has gone back on his word by introducing preventive detention, Ahmad Zahid said this was part of Putrajaya's transformation programme whereby power is transferred from the minister to the board.
The amendments to the PCA were tabled last week in Parliament, one of which provided for up to two years detention without trial.
Currently, the PCA allows the detention of suspects up to 71 days, during which period they should be produced in court at certain stages.
Similar to the old ISA, the proposed amendments exclude the provision of judicial review, except if it is on procedural measures.
DAP chairman Karpal Singh had said the new contents were "no better" than what it was under the ISA while DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang described the amendments as regressive and "an obnoxious piece of legislation".
Civil society, including the Bar Council, complained they were neither informed nor consulted over the amendments.
On the eve of Malaysia Day in 2011, Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced the repeal of ISA and three Emergency Declarations, stressing that it was to increase civil liberties.
Najib had said under new laws to be introduced, detention could only be extended by the court and that "the power of detention will be shifted from the executive to the judiciary, unless it concerns terrorism."
However, recent spate of violent crimes involving firearms has led to a growing chorus of demands from certain quarters for the government to reinstate preventive laws. - October 3, 2013.
~ The Malaysian Insider

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