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Sunday October 20, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday October 20, 2013 MYT 11:49:35 AM
by shahanaaz habib
Battle ready: Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi gets a feel of a Colt Sub Compact Weapon at the 3rd General Police and Special Equipment Exhibition and Conference Asia 2013 in Putrajaya. — Bernama
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi stresses that the Prevention of Crime Act is very specific and focused solely on criminals.
TWO years after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak abolished the controversial ISA, Emergency Ordinance and Restricted Residence Acts, a spike in crime and rampant shootings has caused the government to rethink its decision on detention without trial.
Recently, it tabled and passed amendments to a not-much-used and not-much-heard-of Prevention of Crime Act (PCA), which allows a suspected criminal to be detained for two years, and a further two years, without being tried in an open court.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is an former ISA (political) detainee himself, tabled the amendments in parliament.
In this Q&A interview with The Star, he insists that the PCA is not the ISA and he believes it cannot be abused in “any way”.
> Doesn’t reintroducing the PCA, which is largely seen as the ISA in a different form, show that PM Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak made a mistake when he abolished the ISA and EO two years ago?
No. In terms of political transformation, I think he has done his part.
The original PCA was tabled in 1959. Why the PCA is being re-introduced now is to include Sabah and Sarawak, which were not covered back then.
The PM’s directive is that there will be no detention without trial. And what the A-G’s chambers has done is advise the Home Ministry that the executive has no power to detain anyone (without trial).
Under the amended PCA, a Board of Preventive Crime will be established. Initially, this was to be made up of only three judges or legal practitioners. But the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club asked to change this to five instead of three people, and the Dewan Rakyat agreed.
As for the decision to detain someone, this can be reviewed by the High Court once that decision has been made. To me, this is not detention without trial because the detention is preventive.
The problem for the police is how to get evidence for court because they are dealing with gangsters and criminals. I made a comparative study with the US and the UK and found that although criminals there are brought to the open court, there are some preventive detention clauses which are given priority before strong evidence is found.
> A number of groups including the Bar Council are upset over the PCA. Why were they not consulted?
We can’t just look at the legal and human rights aspects. Criminals have money and can engage the best lawyers. In such cases, what powers are given to the police? Nothing! No witnesses are going to come forward to testify and the police are not able to present strong evidence (in court). So there is no way that we can put these criminals in prison (through trial in an open court).
> There are views that the police were very unhappy when the PM abolished the ISA and EO, so they deliberately allowed crime to spike in order to force the government to bring back these (draconian) acts.
That is not true. I discussed this with (former Home Minister Datuk Seri) Hishammuddin (Hussein) and the previous IGP (Tan Sri Ismail Omar) and the current one (Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar). There were actually operations carried out during that time too but there was no law to take these people in, which is why the PCA is being brought back. It is a 1959 law based on the situation then, which is more than 50 years ago, so some clauses in the Act were no longer relevant and others had to be amended. What the police has done is look into what law empowers them for their operations.
> But this will only give the police an excuse to do shoddy police work because they can use the PCA to put criminals away without the need to do proper investigation and charge the person.
No. That is only perception. One of my responsibilities is to eradicate negative perception. The actual situation has to be explained not only by me but also by senior police officials, otherwise that perception will remain. In terms of the professionalism of our investigation officers, I recognise the need for further training. Our officers must be given full exposure not only in this country but they must also be trained in other countries.
And other facilities like high definition CCTVs must be installed too, not only by the police but also by the local governments. I have discussed this even with (Penang Chief Minister) Lim Guan Eng and the state governments of Selangor and Kelantan (which are ruled by Pakatan Rakyat) and they are together with us (the Barisan Federal Government) in tackling crime because it is everybody’s issue and not just the Federal Government’s. The support from them is overwhelming.
How bad is crime in the country right now ?
After Ops Cantas, the crime rate has reduced to 7.8%. Previously, the positive public perception towards the police was down to 38% but now it has risen to 72%. The findings are based on a study we did. Respondents were asked how they perceive the operations done by the police, the level of confidence they have in the capabilities of the police, whether the equipment used by the police is state-of-the-art, and on the achievement of the operations, whether they have confidence in the credibility of the police in carrying out their duties. There were 16 questions altogether.
> People may feel safer with Ops Cantas but what happens when it is over?
We are going to continue our Ops Cantas Khas. We have even created an Ops Cantas Wanita which comprises a group of policewomen tackling crime involving women. From the random survey done over two weeks, we saw that women not only have confidence in the capabilities of the policewomen but also the men because these policewomen are the crème de la crème.
> Coming back to the PCA, why were the Bar Council and other human rights groups not consulted before it was tabled in parliament?
The A-G’s Chambers did engage some quarters including the Bar Council and the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) and other NGOs before the bill was tabled. We actually had two forums. One was organised by the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation, and the Bar Council was there. I found out later that the Bar Council didn’t consider it official representation because they were just giving their opinion.
In the recent (Oct 16) Cabinet meeting, the PM said we need to engage not just the Bar Council but also other NGOs so we will continue to do this.
The recently amended PCA is not final. If there are some clauses or elements that need to be amended or strengthened, we will do it. It is not cast in stone.
I know the PM. He is a very good listener. If there are things in the PCA that the Bar Council and the NGOs are unhappy with, we can discuss them and amend them in the coming session.
The door is not closed. And there are 10 other laws that will be amended to bring them in line with the PCA, so we are open to discussion and amendments. The only thing that can’t be changed is the Quran and Hadith (the sayings of the Holy Prophet).
> But why were the (recently passed) amendments to the PCA rushed through?
The EO was no longer there and the Restricted Residence Act too was gone, so in fact there was nothing in place for the police to take action. Their powers under the Police Act are not adequate. How are you going to charge someone if witnesses won’t testify?
> But if the police can identify the criminal, then surely they have enough proof to try him in court and put him away?
No, they don’t have the kind of evidence (that will stand up in a court of law) and that is why they have to do this preventive detention.
For example, if a guy is sitting in a coffee shop eating and two guys wearing full-faced helmets show up and gun him down, the CCTV is of no use because you can’t see their faces, so how to charge them? There are no witnesses or the witnesses are too scared. Do you know a number of those who got killed recently were actually witnesses against criminals?
Just take the nasi bungkus seller who was shot dead in Terengganu recently (Mohd Lutfi Mansor on Aug 13). Well, he was a witness.
Some of those shootings you’ve been seeing are of those who had been witnesses who had helped put away criminals in the Simpang Renggam detention centre (under the EO) .
We know those are the people who carried out these shootings. But how do you bring them to court?
The police have their intelligence and information but how can you prove in court that it is that particular guy who did it?
In the case of the killers of (banker) Hussain Najadi (who was shot dead on July 29), we know who they are. But where is the weapon? It has been disposed of, so how do we prove the case? And the main person who ordered the killing is in Australia. Even if we extradited him from Australia, if he has good lawyers, it is very difficult for us without material evidence to prove our case because we are dealing with criminals here.
> When the ISA was introduced, it was supposed to be used against communist insurgents but later it was abused and used against others including politicians. What guarantee is there that the PCA won’t be abused in a similar manner?
In the PCA, there are schedules. Schedule 1 spells out the kinds of criminals and crimes. It is criminal-specific.
But the ISA, on the other hand, was too general and broad. There were three broad categories for detention under section 73. They were economic sabotage, religious sabotage and political sabotage.
With the PCA, you can’t go wrong. You can’t use it against politicians unless, of course, the politician concerned is involved with the underworld or other criminal activities.
You can’t detain someone under the PCA for, say, threatening public security because it is purely used for a criminal act.
When people say PCA is replacing the ISA, I say “No, it is not” because the ISA wasn’t targeted at criminals.
Also, with the PCA, we have to table reports annually to parliament. We didn’t have to do that with the ISA. With the PCA, it is mandatory. In my mind, there is no way the PCA can be misused because it is very specific and focused solely on criminals.
Act a violation of human rights says Proham
Tags / Keywords:
Government, Courts & Crime, pca, detention without trial, isa
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