On Sosma and Khairuddin’s detention

A few weeks ago, I wrote in this column about the offence of “activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy” and how it appeared that the authorities had been using this particular law to investigate, arrest and detain, people over issues relating to a state owned firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The offence of “activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy”, contained in Section 124B of the Penal Code, was introduced together with the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (better known as Sosma) in 2012 as replacement for the Internal Security Act.

Sections 124B to 124N were inserted into the Penal Code at this time, and are classified as offences against the State. 

Many had warned then that Sosma could be invoked for “security offences” and used against those who have been investigated under Section 124B.

It appears now that those fears have come true.

A day before Hari Raya Haji, the authorities arrested former Batu Kawan Umno vice-chief Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan under Sosma.

He is being detained over allegations of having committed offences under the Penal Code Sections 124K (the offence of sabotage) and 124L (the offence of attempt to commit sabotage).

According to reports, he had lodged reports with law enforcement authorities in Switzerland, Britain, France, Singapore and Hong Kong over state owned investment arm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

It must also be pointed out that Khairuddin was previously arrested for the offence of attempt to commit an activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy over those reports. He was remanded for six days. Upon expiry of the remand order, Khairuddin was released and subsequently re-arrested under Sosma.

Khairuddin, through his lawyers, has challenged the Sosma.

There are many questions which must be answered by the authorities. How can it be said that Khairuddin engaged in an activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy or sabotage by lodging those reports? Is lodging reports against 1MDB a crime? Is there a need to use Sosma to arrest and detain Khairuddin for up to 28 days without the need to bring him to Court?

The lodging of reports against a corporate entity cannot be regarded as an act against the State, even if the company is owned by the State.

Several NGOs have issued statements against Khairuddin’s release. The Malaysian Bar, through its president Steven Thiru has also issued a statement detailing why the arrest of Khairuddin is objectionable and without basis.

“The lodging of reports with foreign enforcement agencies against a Malaysian corporate entity is not prohibited by our laws and cannot be regarded as being ‘activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy’ or ‘sabotage’ or ‘attempt to commit sabotage’ ... Even with this loose definition, it is incredible, and a quantum leap in logic, to hold that lodging of reports with foreign enforcement authorities is tantamount to sabotage,” Steven said.

The arrest and detention of Khairuddin under Sosma is troubling.

We are possibly seeing the first documented instance of the Act being used against a politician. We are also possibly witnessing Sosma being used on an individual in relation to the issues surrounding 1MDB for the first time. And there is a genuine fear that this will not be the last time.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
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