KUALA LUMPUR: The government suffered a historic shock defeat in the Dewan Rakyat when a motion to continue with the powers to detain suspects for up to 28 days without trial under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) was shot down.
A total of 86 MPs voted against the motion while 84 supported it.
Another 50 MPs were absent but three of them came in just after the vote had been called.
After a protest by the Opposition, the three were disqualified and their votes were not counted.
The only time that a government Bill was defeated in Dewan Rakyat before this was in 2019 but that was a constitutional amendment which needed two-thirds majority.
Among the 50 MPs absent were Datuk Seri Najib Razak (BN-Pekan) and Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (BN-Bagan Datuk).
Another, Datuk Seri M. Saravanan (BN-Tapah), is abroad.
Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun announced the government’s failure to get the motion, tabled by Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin, passed.
“For the motion tabled by the Home Minister, those who were in favour were 84, those not in favour 86, and those who were absent, 50.
“The motion that was tabled earlier is not passed,” said Azhar.
The failure to get the motion passed sent the Dewan into a frenzy, and it was then adjourned abruptly.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin tabled a motion to postpone the Second and Third Reading of the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2022 which was slated in the Order Paper.
This caused an uproar as Opposition MPs wanted to debate on the Bill.
The motion on Sosma tabled by Hamzah sought to extend the enforcement of sub-section 4(5) of Sosma for another five years beginning from July 31, 2022.
Hamzah said that when the Act was enacted in 2012, the period of sub-section 4(5) had been limited to five years, with renewals in Parliament required, only as a check-and-balance element in its enforcement.
He noted that preventive laws to detain suspects were needed in light of the seriousness of the crimes they intended to thwart.
Hamzah pointed out that the provision had been extended by Parliament before from July 31, 2017, until July 31, 2022.
While acknowledging that there were fears that Sosma would be used as a political tool, he said those who opposed the extension would give space to “terrorists and criminals to rule”.
He cited the use of the Act in the Lahad Datu incursion in Sabah in 2013 and the terrorist bomb threats against Movida Kitchen Bar & Club Lounge.
He said a total of 3,717 people had been detained under Sosma between 2016 and January this year.
This included 400 for involvement with terrorist groups, 321 for human trafficking syndicate activities, 1,838 for human trafficking and 1,030 for organised crimes.
Hamzah said that a total of 126 suspects were charged with terrorism between 2017 and 2022 while 552 were charged with smuggling migrants since 2018.
He added that there were occasions when the police felt the 28-day detention was insufficient for a thorough investigation.
During the debates, Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz (BN-Padang Rengas), who had first tabled Sosma in 2012 when he was minister in charge of Parliament, said the law had been used to thwart several serious crimes, including one against a Malaysian doctor who tried to join the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
However, he disagreed with Hamzah that the 28-day period was insufficient.
“28 days means 28 days and this is sufficient,” he said.
Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub (BN-Machang) said Sosma was needed to deal with terrorism and hit out at the Opposition for claiming it was used as a political tool.
The Opposition MPs, meanwhile, spoke against the 28-day detention period.
R. Sivarasah (PH-Sungai Buloh) said the provisions excluded the courts from acting as a check and balance.
He said criminal suspects are usually detained for a maximum of 14 days under the Criminal Procedure Code, which is subject to approval by the Magistrate’s Court.
“There is a fear of abuse of powers under the present provision,” he said.
Ramkarpal Singh (PH-Bukit Gelugor) noted that the requirement to produce a suspect before a Magistrate’s Court for extension of a remand order was missing under Sosma.
Kasthuri Patto (PH-Batu Kawan), meanwhile, insisted that Sosma was used as a political tool in the detention of Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah in 2016 when she led the Bersih movement.
Khoo Poay Tiong (PH-Kota Melaka) reminded the House that the former Pakatan Harapan administration had planned to abolish Sosma but it went off the rails following the Sheraton Move in 2020.
In reply, Hamzah denied that Sosma was used as a political tool.
“If we look at this Act under subsection 4(3), it is clearly stated that no one can be arrested or detained based on their political belief or their political activities,” he said.
“I will never use this Act against politicians. We should never do that,” he said.