The Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) which replaced the Internal Security Act (ISA) is as dreaded and cruel as the latter.
So, the new legislation that came into being to curb security threats is an obnoxious legislation that has no place in a country that wants to be labelled as democratic and progressive.
In a broader sense, just like its predecessor, Sosma has become a useful instrument in the hands of the executive to ward off potential threats to its hegemony.
While the ISA provided for 60 days detention, Sosma has reduced it to 28 days.
In fact, since the police have to submit their investigation reports within seven days of the expiry of the time period, they have only 21 days to complete their investigation.
Sosma might have reduced the period of detention, however, those detained by this legislation do not to have the right to be bailed out, with some exceptions.
Sosma detainees have to wait long periods for their conviction to be challenged in the court of law.
Within 48 hours of detention, detainees are allowed to contact their family members or their lawyers.
However, family members do not have the opportunity to have face to face contacts with those detained.
The conversation between family members and detainees are closely monitored to the extent there is no meaningful conversation.
Moreover, family members are only allowed to have telephone conversations in the prisons separated by walls.
While the law provides for 28 days without trial, the detainees stand the chance for being locked for months, if not for years, simply because of the delay in the court’s due process.
Chances are that some of the detainees might not be guilty of the crimes that have been accused of, but they have no choice but to spend days in remand.
A few months back, a number of persons were arrested and detained under the Sosma in Penang and other states. They were accused of being members of certain “gangs”.
All of them are languishing in prison without any legal recourse. Even if their cases are decided by the court of law, it would take a considerable period of time.
They were alleged to have engaged in gang-related activities, such as murder, money laundering and criminal intimidation.
According to some family members, the situation of detainees in prisons is pitiful.
Many of them are experiencing health-related problems and are completely in the dark as to their ultimate fate.