PETALING JAYA (Aug 12, 2013): Handing preventive detention powers to a panel rather than a minister will not make any difference, legal activists said today in response to Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s legal reform suggestion quoted in a Malay daily on Sunday.
Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights coordinator Edmund Bon said the minister missed the point as the problem was the length of the detention period, not who ordered it.
“Preventive detention is to gain more time to investigate and gather evidence. A panel can be very fair, but if they order a detention of six years, we will still oppose it,” said Bon.
The Penal Code allows for a 14-day detention to facilitate investigations, while the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 allows for 56 days, he added.
“You cannot detain someone for two or four years. But under special circumstances, you can extend the remand period,” said Bon.
Lawyers for Liberty co-founder Eric Paulsen said while a panel would be able to ask questions, it would rely on police recommendations and also lack the scope of a trial, where evidence has to be tendered.
“Someone will still be deprived of their liberty without being subjected to cross-examination and judicial pronouncement,” said Paulsen.
Precisely for that reason, the Bar Council Human Rights Committee opposes such a panel, said co-chairperson Andrew Khoo.
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director E. Nalini said it’s about “police procedure and use of the law itself, as every arrest must be done based on evidence”.
It was reported on Sunday that Zahid said the power to issue preventive detention orders in laws to replace the Emergency Ordinance, Restricted Residence
Act and Internal Security Act could be placed in the hands of a panel comprising members of the police, judiciary and Attorney-General’s Chambers.
By Tan Yi Liang, the Sun Daily