The amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 were bulldozed through the parliament yesterday as expected. The government claimed it will prevent crime from being committed and make the country safe for the people. Whatever safeguards demanded by the Bar Council, Human Rights groups and the opposition were ignored.
The government responded by saying we should not advocate for the human rights of the criminals. We are all for the strictest sentencing if they are guilty. However, in Malaysia, the problem is a question of trust. We cannot trust the law not to be abused. Most people don’t trust the government and rightly so. Why? It is because we have a poor record of misusing and abusing the Internal Security Act (ISA) and Emergency Ordinance (EO) before they were abolished. The same government had locked up various political figures using the now defunct ISA. These include Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh, Teresa Kok as well as various reporters. These are still fresh in our memory.
So the law lacks check and balance when it was abused. It is not possible to appeal with this new law. The answer is the Bar Council is against it. Imagine if you are locked up and there is nothing we can do to appeal. We cannot even ask for any explanation and the reason for detention to be reviewed.
We know in this country, people find it difficult to trust the police, the judges and the government not to cover one another. So a law like this which may be effective in reducing crime, is highly dangerous to be abused. To be kind to the criminals is bad, to lock up innocent people is worse. How can you sacrifice many innocent people just to catch a few criminals. So Ops Cantas Khas locked up more than 10,000 people to prevent how many crimes? How many families are destroyed? So a person who was convicted of crimes and served the sentences had to be punished again and again and forever? Can they ever start a new life after serving their sentences? The really big time criminals probably are protected by connections anyway.
There is a balance to crime prevention and “protection of innocent people”, not “criminals”. We hope the people can see from a broader view rather than react with irrational emotions. We cannot give the police unlimited power that cannot be questioned. As we know, the police here already had a poor record when it comes to abuse of power. To punish the wrong innocent people is inexcusable and indefensible. We will do worse than Myanmar in locking up Aung San Suu Kyi.