Call on Abdullah to give government support to Teresa Kok’s motion on Monday to refer the slew of three anti-terrorism bills to Parliamentary Select Committee to benefit from world-wide backlash and review that terrorism laws enacted after September 11 terrorist attacks had been too indiscriminately wide as to be counter-productive by undermining human rights and the rule of law
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Saturday): DAP calls on the new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to give government support to DAP MP for Seputeh, Teresa Kok’s motion on Monday to refer the slew of three anti-terrorism bills to a Parliamentary Select Committee to benefit from world-wide backlash and review that terrorism laws enacted after September 11 terrorist attacks two years ago had been too indiscriminately wide as to be counter-productive by undermining human rights and the rule of law –two key elements in any successful campaign against terrorism.
The international media report yesterday that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the United States had used the sweeping powers of anti-terrorist legislation, the Patriot Act, against the owner of a Las Vegas strip club suspected of bribing local council officials should serve as a salutary warning that the slew of proposed anti-terrorism laws before Parliament, the amendments to the Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2001, needs intensive scrutiny by MPs, the Bar Council, the human rights NGOs and the civil society to ensure that the government agencies could not overreach with the wide powers created without proper oversight and adequate safeguards.
At a time when there are growing international public pressures in other countries to rein in the untrammeled powers granted in the first rush to take action against terrorism in the panicky aftermath of September 11, trampling on human rights and the rule of law, the Malaysian government and Parliament should be more circumspect to ensure that we do not repeat their mistakes and that the anti-terrorism laws we are enacting are spared the draconian features inimical to human rights and the rule of law which other countries are trying to remove.
Despite the second-reading debate in Parliament on the first of the three anti-terrorism bills, the Penal Code Amendment Bill, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim, had failed to give any satisfactory answer to widespread fears that the present batch of proposed anti-terrorism laws, so wide-ranging in scope and vague in definition, pose grave new threats to human rights and the rule of law in the country.
The government should not have presented the anti-terrorism bills to Parliament without a White Paper on Terrorism, detailing the activities and connections of the alleged Kumpulan Militant Malaysia (KMM), Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and al-Qaeda in Malaysia, including the status of al Qaeda’s top Asian leader Hambali currently in US custody , the identity of Malaysians in US custody and the country’s international profile and notoriety for being associated with international terrorism.
The government should also explain why the Malaysian government has not put KMM and JI members on trial for the “inhumane and despicable crimes” they were alleged to have committed in Malaysia, including bank robberies and the assassination of the Lunas state assemblyman Dr Joe Fernandez in November 2000 - when the Indonesian authorities could publicly put on trial those responsible for the Bali bomb blasts last October which killed over 200 people.
A report is also owed to Parliament and the people with regard to the status of the regional counter-terrorism centre which Malaysia is hosting.
The government claimed that the introduction of the three anti-terrorism bills is to enable Malaysia to accede to international anti-terrorism conventions and to comply with the United Nation Security Council Resolutions on counter-terrorism measures in particular Security Council Resolution 1373 of 28th September 2001.
The government’s delay in introducing these anti-terrorism bills can be no excuse for slip-shod legislation by Parliament or disregard of the truism that combating terrorism requires not only security measures but a reaffirmation of human rights values and the rule of law.
If Malaysia is so concerned about international conventions, we should without delay ratify the Rome Treaty on the world’s first permanent International Criminal Court with powers to try crimes of international terrorism. Parliament should be urging the government to give this top national priority, as we should be setting an example to the world especially now that Malaysia is the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).
It was only on Monday that in his maiden official speech as the new Prime Minister delivered in Parliament, Abdullah pledged to respect the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary which is important to maintain the checks and balances needed to prevent abuses of power.
By supporting Teresa Kok’s motion on Monday to refer the three anti-terrorism bills to a Parliamentary Select Committee for greater public scrutiny, Abdullah will be taking the first concrete step to translate his pledge to respect for the separation of powers into action – and the nation would have cause to be relieved that the first positive move had been taken in decades to restore to Parliament its proper role and place in the system of Malaysian parliamentary democracy.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman