KUALA LUMPUR: The Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) 2012 was not introduced to suppress political freedoms, says Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.
"Sosma was introduced to deal with terrorism and other security offences. It was not intended to guillotine parliamentary democracy or suppress political freedom," he said at the Malaysian Bar Council's "Sosma – Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" forum here.
The former Attorney-General, who read from the Hansard record of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's speech in Parliament when Sosma was tabled, added in his speech at the forum that Sosma was clearly enacted to deal with terrorism and terrorist acts.
"Sosma was drafted for procedural matters. The detention powers are only for investigation purposes," said Abdul Gani.
He, however, declined to comment on the detention of former Batu Kawan Umno vice-chief Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan and his lawyer Matthias Chang under the Act.
"I can't give my views at all as the matter is before the courts. As a matter of policy, I do not comment on these matters," said Abdul Gani.
He said that generally speaking, Sosma had replaced the Internal Security Act as an alternative to detention without trial or preventative detention.
"To combat terrorism a holistic plan and methodology must be established. There were also guidelines drafted for the authorities to use, guidelines for arrests, for electronic monitoring and the notification of next of kin," said Abdul Gani, adding that there were safeguards built into Sosma.
"At the end, the matter has to be referred to the Public Prosecutor or the person has to be released," said Abdul Gani.
Reading from Najib's 2012 speech in Parliament, Abdul Gani said that there were further safeguards that were written into Sosma, including a committee that would include the Malaysian Bar Council president.
"You should ask where the committee is, where are the checks and balances," he said.
He added that he had questioned why the detention period was being set at 28 days when he was still the Attorney-General.
"When a similar law was being tabled in the UK, they were also were toying with the idea of 28 days, and when I was the Attorney-General, I asked for the rationale, but no one could tell me why it was set at 28 days," he said.
Tuesday's event marked his first public function since his retirement as Attorney-General in July.
On July 27, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa announced that Abdul Gani’s tenure as A-G had been terminated due to health reasons.
He continued to serve as a judicial and legal service officer until his mandatory retirement on Oct 6.
He was replaced as A-G by former Federal Court judge Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.
Meanwhile, Bar Council President Steven Thiru said that any counter-terrorism laws are justified when it is shown they can meet the threat.
"These laws must guarantee access to justice and the right to access to counsel for suspects," said Steven.
He added that according to available news reports, 197 people have been arrested under Sosma since its introduction."But the arrests of Khairuddin and Chang show how Sosma can be misused. An Act to expose possible corruption in the corridors of government does not fall under the Penal Code. Sosma should not be used against any lawyer acting for, or in the interests of their client," said Steven.