There is no place for Sosma in a democratic country

  • Letters
  • Friday, 18 Oct 2019

WE, the undersigned civil society organisations, are gravely concerned with the continued use of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) in spite of Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto to abolish the draconian provisions of this law that permits detention without trial. In addition, Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad stated in July 2018 that Sosma would be abolished.

The arrest and detention of at least 12 individuals with alleged links to the long-defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militant group is not only a betrayal of these promises but stands as yet another failure by the Pakatan administration in upholding fundamental principles of the rule of law and the right to fair trial.

The Royal Malaysian Police has revealed that it conducted an investigation into the alleged support for LTTE before conducting its operations and detaining the 12 individuals under Sosma. This claim only underlines the question why Sosma was even invoked to address the possible threat to the safety and security of Malaysia.

As countless human rights advocates and lawyers have raised in the past, the Criminal Procedure Code provides adequate powers and leeway for the police to discharge their function as necessary. Section 105 of the Criminal Procedure Code grants police power to arrest to prevent seizable offence and powers to remand a person up to a maximum of 14 days through the remand process.

If adequate investigation has been conducted and the police already possess preliminary evidence of the alleged crime committed by the 12 individuals, why are they not detained for further investigation under the Criminal Procedure Code and why is there a need for further extended remand under Sosma when they ought to be produced and charged in court as soon as possible?

The suggestion that detention under Sosma would provide the police with a more detailed statement as opposed to calling these individuals for a statement under Section 111 of the Criminal Procedure Code is equally as absurd.

If these individuals are providing their full cooperation in the investigation, there should be no difference when and where they provide their statement to the police. The only difference of detaining them under Sosma is that they would be vulnerable to abuse, as evidenced by countless former Sosma detainees who have publicly revealed the abuses they experienced during the 28-day remand period.

We would like to reiterate to the Pakatan administration that the right to a fair trial is fundamental to the criminal justice system of any country. Not guaranteeing that any person facing a criminal allegation would have a fair chance to defend themselves will only tarnish the integrity of our criminal justice system and erode public confidence in it.

Just as the Internal Security Act 1960 was a draconian law and a relic of a darker time when gross human rights violations were a norm in Malaysia, Sosma is a relic of a time when fundamental rights and freedoms were not valued.

There is no place for Sosma in Malaysia if we aspire for greater democracy and development in the country, and its retention will only erode any confidence Malaysians have in Pakatan’s sincerity in carrying out institutional reform.

To this end, we, the undersigned civil society organisations, call for these 12 individuals to be released from Sosma detention and for further investigation to be conducted in line with the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and for them to be charged in an open court.

Endorsed by the Agora Society, Association of Women Lawyers, Bersih 2.0, Beyond Borders Malaysia, Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism, Centre for Independent Journalism, G25, Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia, Justice for Sisters, Kryss Network, Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Women’s Section, Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture, North South Initiative, Our Journey, Parti Sosialis Malaysia, Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia, Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor, Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Pusat Komas, Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia, Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Tenaganita, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Women’s Aid Organisation, Writer Alliance for Media Independence
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