PETALING JAYA: The three branches of government - the executive, judiciary and legislature - must play their roles to ensure that proper safeguards are in place to prevent abuses of the National Security Council (NSC) Act, said Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail.
He said the safeguards should ensure that a balance exists between security and the liberties and freedoms guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.
"Many provisions of the Act are couched in fairly general terms without clear definitions or safeguards.
“Further, the unclear definition of security in the Act may also be interpreted to suppress expression of thoughts, opinions or beliefs on public matters, including government policies," said Razali in a statement.
He said that while certain rights may be limited to protect certain enumerated aims/purposes such as national security, public order, public health and morals and the rights and freedoms of others, those aims/purposes are not to be interpreted loosely.
"The unfettered powers granted under the Act without proper checks and balances may threaten the state of human rights in the country," said Razali.
He said Suhakam advocates for the creation of a mechanism of review as has been emphasised in the report of the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism.
"The report suggested that the review of security and anti-terrorism laws should include an annual governmental review of and reporting on the exercise of powers under counter-terrorism laws, an annual independent review of the overall operations of counter terrorism laws and a periodic Parliamentary review," said Razali.
He criticised the powers given to the Head of Government under the Act - to declare a location as a security area for a six-month period and then continually renew it for six-month periods without limit.
“This implies that the Act essentially gives unlimited power to the Head of Government, which raises concerns of accountability and impartiality on the part of the Executive.
“It is imperative that the Judiciary and Legislature assert its roles as checks upon the Executive.
“Is there any way that suitable provisions can be added into the Act to manifest this serious concern by Malaysians," said Razali, adding that the Act does not give sufficient explanation about its relevance within the spirit of the Federal Constitution.
"The preamble in its current form is unclear and thus, may lead to an abuse of power as its objective and purpose is not clearly defined and there are no perimeters to limit the use of these powers," said Razali.
He added that Suhakam is open to any invitation to sit in the NSC Council’s meetings.
"Our proposal is in line with the mandate and functions as contained in Suhakam’s founding Act.
“Whatever are the exigencies and compulsions under whatever circumstances, this country must honour and preserve our liberties and our democratic freedom," said Razali