UPDATE: The amendments were passed at 12.50am on 3 October after a debate in Parliament. The article below was first published on 30 September.
It feels like it was just yesterday when the government announced it would repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA), which was first introduced in the communist-insurgency era. In 2012, the ISA and the Emergency Ordinance Act were replaced with the Security Offences Act.
A few days ago came the news of Parliament proposing an amendment to the Prevention of Crime Act 159 (PCA) to introduce a collection of new provisions, which have caused an outcry among the Malaysian Bar Council and human rights activists. Some are calling it ISA in a few form. So how does it compare?
1) Both laws are preventative, which means that they can be used to arrest and detain someone without trial even if they have not been charged with a crime.
2) The PCA Bill includes a clause that would allow detention without trial for up to two years that can be renewed for a successive period of two years. The length of time spelled out is exactly similar to that of section 8(1) of the ISA.
3) In the new PCA, however, detention after five years must be reviewed by Parliament. Some ISA detainees were detained or restricted of their movements for decades.
4) Who can be detained? Under the PCA amendment, if you have committed two or more serious offences or contravened conditions of an earlier supervision order, this can lead to detention. The ISA has a broader guideline that requires a person to be “acting in any manner prejudicial to the country’s security, essential services or economic life”.
5) Under the new PCA amendment, an inquiry would be held to see if someone can be detained. It does not allow for legal representation for the suspected person during these inquiries.
6) Similar to ISA, the discretion given by the laws under PCA would not be subjected to judicial review. That means the decision cannot be challenged in court, unless there is an abuse of process.
7) The new PCA amendments would see a board (the Prevention of Crime Board) chaired by a former judge or potential judge to determine detentions and renewals, instead of by the Home Minister, who had discretion of detention under ISA.
Abdul Qayyum Jumadi is a law student. In his free time he struggles to finish tutorials and prepare for exams. Most other time he just gets lost, writes short stories, and eats. He is a former Poskod.my Writer in Progress. Follow him @qayzr.