Najib gives himself new powers

Malaysia’s police just got less accountable. Source: Wikimedia

A controversial Malaysian security law is becoming law amid increasing political uncertainty.

Prime Minister Najib Razak is mired in a multimillion dollar financial scandal involving the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berham, commonly known as 1MDB.

The security law will enable Najib to designate “security areas” where the authorities can deploy personnel while people, premises and vehicles can be searched without a warrant.

The act eliminated the need to conduct public inquests into police shootings in the security zones and gave the new security council the powers to declare emergency rule.

The security council, which will include the prime minister and be majority controlled by Najib’s party, will not need to explain its decisions.

Ei Sun Oh, a former prime minister’s office staff member, said: “Under the current oppressive political climate, there is legitimate fear that the law may be abused to stifle dissents, such as expressed in peaceful street protests which should have been a fundamental right to assemble.”

The embattled premier said the law would counter security threats, but the UN Human Rights Office said the law would silence the opposition.

“We are gravely concerned that … the act may encourage human rights violations,” said the UN’s regional rights representative Laurent Meillan.

Meillan said the law could lead to “unjust restrictions” on freedom of expression and assembly.

“We call on the government to revise the act to bring it in line with international human rights norms and standards,” the UN envoy said.

Najib defended the act, saying that the region was gripped by a terror threat.

“My government will never apologise for placing the safety and security of the Malaysian people first,” a Najib statement said.

The National Security Council Act gives powers to declare virtual martial law to counter alleged security threat.

“A lot of people in Malaysia don’t trust Najib. It gives him too much power,” argued James Chin of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania. “This gives the prime minister the powers of the king. Previously only the king had [such] authority.”

There would be no judicial review of the security council’s actions and politicians on the council would all come from the ruling party and outnumber administrators such as police commanders, Chin said.

“There’s no way anyone can overrule the prime minister. Effectively, he will get what he wants,” Chin opined. “It sends a strong signal to the population of Malaysia and also the opposition that he’s all-powerful.”