October 7, 2022

A ‘Serious Crimes Act’ to replace Sosma?

3 min read

THE efforts to fine tune Sosma – the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act – and not abolish it all together is not in keeping with the promise made by Pakatan Harapan during the campaign before 2018’s GE14. It is certainly not in keeping with the spirit of New Malaysia. (“Ministry looking into amending Sosma”, The Star, Nov 7; online at bit.ly/star_amend.)

Promises must be kept and honoured to ensure that public trust and confidence will not wane.

It would be prudent for all the stakeholders in our democratic system to consider a “Serious Crimes Act” to replace Sosma. It could have almost similar characteristics as a preventive law like Sosma but unlike that law, it will be transparently accountable to the criminal justice system. The judiciary will play a more significant role.

The police too must shift their stand in supporting preventive laws and forge ahead with this paradigm in keeping with modern times, especially in handling social dissent professionally.

In fact, the “Serious Crimes Act” was mooted some time ago to curtail a surge of allegations of misuse and abuse of police powers. It took cognisance of the immense power the executive had over the criminal justice system and made efforts to introduce more checks and balances. It did not materialise.

Many times in the past, preventive laws have been misused for political purposes – the 1MDB scandal was arguably the pinnacle of such misuse. It was distressing to see how our enforcement agencies were used in efforts to protect criminal acts in the guise of protecting national security.

The police, therefore, must be in the forefront of enhancing the separation of powers between them and the executive.

The solution lies in making the judicial pillar play a more significant role in effective checks and balances.

Rules of engagement, which are prevalent during war times and critical serious crime investigations, cannot usurp the role of applying the rule of law in the strictest interpretation available. Jurisprudence and natural justice must always be the guiding light and persuasive guide in all actions taken by any enforcement agency. The executive must not be seen to be in total administrative control of any enforcement agency. There is always a possibility of rogues within the executive colluding with rogue officers in an enforcement agency to harbour criminal acts.

Allegations of threats to national security must be substantiated by prima facie evidence from the

outset of investigations. Thus a “Serious Crimes Act” will not only cover terrorists but those hardcore and dangerous criminals that require more than a firm hand by investigators. Detention, remand and a time frame will be extended and long enough coupled with non interference from external enquiries during the initial stages of investigation similar to preventive laws.

The progressive point here is that this law will conform to the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code. Our legal eagles, if given the task, will be able to find the right balance between the rights of such dangerous suspects and the need to collect sufficient admissible evidence.

The police service must be given the room and space in New Malaysia to gradually ease away from their instinct to appease the executive. This prevails aggressively till today due to the fact that appointments and career advancements of the top echelon of all enforcement agencies are totally dependent on the executive.

This must change so as to ensure that the future of modern policing will become independent and fair and subservient to only the rule of law, persuasively guided by natural justice and accountable to Parliament.

G. SELVA , Ipoh