Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

‘Preventive Detention’ Laws is Not the Way to Fight Crime


KEADILAN views with concern and utter astonishment the calls made by certain parties for the revival of the practice of so-called “preventive detention” in Malaysia, including by bringing back the Emergency Ordinance (EO) and Internal Security Act (ISA).

This is the last thing that Malaysia needs right now, at a time when faith in public institutions is at an all-time low and when our society is deeply divided.
Supporters for the reinstatement of so-called “preventive detention”, who have gained support from several prominent Government figures; argue that such laws are necessary to deal with the wave of violent crime that is now undoubtedly engulfing Malaysia’s streets.

It is argued that the bulk of recent violent crimes were committed by detainees released after the EO was abolished.

First, as far as we are aware, no empirical proof has been provided so far that the abolishment of the EO or ISA is directly linked to the spike in recent violent crimes. It is difficult therefore—in the absence of such evidence—to believe that this claim is anything but hearsay and conjuncture at this point.

Second, one must really question why it has not been possible for these criminal elements to be arrested and prosecuted under the due course of law.

Why it that the authorities feel that it is only via preventive detention—which is normally only used in case of extreme national emergencies—that they can deal with violent crime? Who or what is stopping them from taking action against crime and criminals within the normal framework for the law?

In fact, there have been many cases in the past where the authorities become over-reliant on using preventive laws instead of other existing and available avenues of the law to fight to prosecute criminals. As a result today, the authorities do not properly build their case against genuine criminals and cases get thrown out on technical grounds.

What Malaysia needs right now is not more repressive laws, which are divisive and which have in the past often been abused for political purposes.

What Malaysia desperately needs but which this Government has not been able to deliver for whatever reason are more police officers whose time and resources are completely dedicated to stopping crime and not frivolous or politically-motivated prosecutions.

But more importantly, Malaysians need to take care that the current wave of crime does not become an excuse to clamp down further on our fundamental liberties.

We must not let this crime wave destroy on our way of life, or make us afraid of our streets and each other.

Indeed, it has become all the more necessary for Malaysians to stand up and be counted; to demand that our Government protects both our safety and freedom. We need to be tough on crime within the framework and spirit of our Constitution.

Although Prime Minister Najib Razak has decided to abolish the EO and ISA supposedly as part of his ‘transformation’ effort, he introduced Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) in its stead which still is problematic. While he had also announced the decision to repeal the Sedition Act, yet persecutions under the Act have increased.

Turning back the clock will spell the death for his pledge at the beginning of his tenure that the days of “Government knows best” was over. The Prime Minister cannot allow reactionary voices in his administration to make a mockery of his pledges for reform.

We call on the Prime Minister to not only commit to combatting violent crime within the framework of the law, but to also pledge to ensure that this process does not result in a net loss of civil liberties and political freedoms for law-abiding ordinary Malaysians.

He must embrace civil society and all stakeholders in formulating ways to do this.

All Malaysians would do well to remember this eternal truth: that those who would sacrifice liberty for security will obtain neither.

The two are inseparably linked: Malaysians deserve and must have both if this country is to truly prosper.