Parliament does not provide any genuine check and balance on the NSC Act
4 August 2016
Lawyers for Liberty views with serious concern the series of misinformation that have been propagated by supporters of the National Security Council Act 2016 (NSC Act) that Parliament supposedly has an oversight role or that the declaration of a security area is subjected to parliamentary approval.
See for example, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s press statement “Greater Action Against Terrorism”, 27 July 2016 and Armed Forces Chief General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin’s comments in The Star, “We can tackle terror much better now, says Forces chief”, 2 August 2016.
Both statements are attempts to window dress the NSC Act as under section 18 of the NSC Act, it is clear that the PM wields almost absolute power to declare a security area as he only needs to be advised by the NSC Council in order to make the declaration. The PM does not need to acquire Parliament’s approval nor does Parliament play any genuine oversight role once a security area is declared.
Under section 18(6) of the NSC Act, the only duty imposed on the PM/ NSC Council as far as Parliament is concerned, is to lay the declaration before Parliament as soon as possible after it has been made. No time limit has been imposed on when the declaration should be laid before Parliament or if a special parliamentary sitting should be called if Parliament was not is session during the declaration or anytime soon.
Under the same provision, it is only if resolutions are passed by both Houses of Parliament, then the declaration can be annulled. However, to expect both Houses of Parliament to pass resolutions in opposition to the PM is both impractical and artificial as the PM has the majority in both Houses.
It is therefore clear that in the absence of a higher threshold on when the NSC Act can be invoked and the usurpation of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s role in making the security area declaration (from the now-abolished Internal Security Act), and the limited role played by Parliament – there is no genuine checks and balances against the overwhelming and arbitrary powers granted to the PM under the NSC Act.
Lawyers for Liberty