KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — Lawyers renewed calls today for amendments to the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), saying the security law should focus exclusively on arresting terrorists and not activists like Saiden Ismail.


The 24-year-old Saiden from student activist group Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) was among the 11 hauled up recently under SOSMA purportedly on suspicion of an attempt to fight in Syria’s civil war.


But according to Badrul Hisham Shaharin, who heads SAMM, Saiden was merely collecting funds and materials for a humanitarian mission in strife-torn Syria.


Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan said although SOSMA was packaged as anti-terrorism legislation, the law also covered offences “detrimental to parliamentary democracy”, which is defined in the Penal Code 2012 Amendment as activities designed to “overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by violent or unconstitutional means”.


“It’s not tight enough,” Syahredzan told The Malay Mail Online today.


“That’s one of the concerns of civil society regarding SOSMA. It’s not limited to terrorism. It can be used against dissidents, for example,” he added.


Lawyers for Liberty co-founder Eric Paulsen agreed that offences under SOSMA should be specified to terrorist activities in Malaysia.


“If, for example, I want to go to Palestine and be a human shield, will I be arrested under SOSMA?” he questioned.


“When this particular provision was passed, there were a lot of criticisms because anything can be construed as activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy, including the anti-GST rally,” the official with the law reform NGO told The Malay Mail Online.


More than 15,000 people flooded the capital city on May Day to protest against the goods and services tax (GST) that will be implemented next April.


Paulsen said he had “no doubt” that SOSMA would be abused, citing the now-defunct Internal Security Act (ISA) that was used during the Mahathir administration to detain opposition leaders without trial.


“It’s long been shown that authorities have misused draconian powers,” he said.


SOSMA was enacted in 2012 to replace the now-repealed ISA. The new security law, however, still provides for detention without trial for up to 28 days.


Malaysian authorities believe the 11 picked up under SOSMA may be linked to Yazid Sufaat, who was previously detained under counter-terrorism laws for trying to incite terror outside the country.


“There is some link,” Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday.


Yazid was arrested last year for openly calling on volunteers to join Sunni rebels in the armed fight against the forces of Syria’s Shiah president Bashir al-Asad.


Zahid also said the authorities had acted following information that the 11 had opened a military training cell in Malaysia to recruit more people but refused to state if the suspects were preparing to depart for Syria.


“They had wanted to recruit more and we will not allow it. We do not want Malaysia to be a nest to train terrorists. We don’t want Malaysia to be a launching pad for terrorists.


“Whether or not they are going to Syria the police will reveal but what is important is we don’t want Malaysia to be a launching pad for terrorists,” Zahid said.


BY BOO SU-LYN, The Malay Mail Online