‘Watered-down’ Sosma is still Sosma, say lawyers

PETALING JAYA: More details should be provided on the proposed changes to the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), say advocates and criminal lawyers.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) director Zaid Malek said not much information has been released.

“We do not know what other changes are being proposed.

“There are other areas such as the lengthy detention period where there is no juridical discretion involved but is left in the hands of the police,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Zaid was also of the view that Sosma was a “draconian” law, whether it was “watered down or not”.

“There is no reason why offences under Sosma cannot apply to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and Penal Code that have been tried and tested by the courts,” he said.

Earlier yesterday, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Ramkarpal Singh said that several engagement sessions with stakeholders including the Home Ministry, the police, the Attorney General’s Chambers and family members of Sosma detainees, had been held to find ways to “improve” Sosma.One of the recommendations, he said, was to allow bail for detainees.

At present, those arrested under Sosma are not allowed bail except for juveniles under the age of 18, women or the infirm, subject to the discretion of the court.

Senior criminal lawyer Colin Arvind Andrew said allowing bail was a step in the right direction.

Other areas that should be considered included the length of detention, he added.

He cited the 28-day detention under Section 4(5), saying that it should be a maximum of 14 days similar to Section 117 of the CPC.

“Even for the most heinous crimes such as murder or incest, the remand is up to a maximum of 14 days,” he said.

Criminal lawyer Nizam Bashir said that improving the bail provision, though welcome, is still at odds with Pakatan Harapan’s previous stand in criticising the overall harshness of the law.

He said there were a slew of other provisions that needed to be reviewed if the Sosma changes were to be noteworthy.

“While the notion of public order and security is important, compliance with human rights standards and the Federal Constitution is similarly important unless it involves national security,” he added.

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Sosma , law , detention


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