The much criticised National Security Council (NSC) Act will come into force on Aug 1 2016.
The NSC bill was previously passed by the Dewan Rakyat and the Dewan Negara.
In the normal process, after a bill is passed by Parliament it will then be presented to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for royal assent. This is according to the provisions of the Federal Constitution.
The bill must receive royal assent within 30 days from the date of its presentation to the King.
In most instances, bills would receive royal assent within the 30 days.
However, the NSC bill was extraordinary in that it became law without express royal assent. This has never happened before.
Of course, according to the Federal Constitution if a bill does not receive royal assent within the 30 days, the bill will automatically become law.
But the very fact royal assent was not expressly given for the bill raises certain questions.
This is especially so when previously, the Council of Rulers opined that certain provisions of the bill must be refined.
After the announcement by the Council of Rulers, the Attorney General himself said that certain provisions of the NSC bill will be reviewed.
However, as confirmed by the AG himself in the media, there were no amendments made to the bill before it became law.
We do not know why royal assent was not given, but seeing it in the context of the history of the bill, we can certainly speculate that this absence of express royal assent to mean that the King, or by extension, the Council of Rulers, do not agree with certain provisions in the legislation.
What we do know is that many parties have criticised the law.
The Act gives powers to the Government which will upset the balance between the various institutions of the State.
The Act sets up by law a body known as the National Security Council.
According to the NSC Act, the NSC is to be the Government’s central authority for considering matters concerning national security.
Crucially, the Act empowers the NSC to advice the Prime Minister, who in turn will be empowered to declare a particular area within the country to be a ‘security area’.
The Prime Minister can make the declaration if security in the area is “seriously disturbed or threatened by any person, matter or thing which causes or is likely to cause serious harm to the people, or serious harm to the territories, economy, national key infrastructure of Malaysia or any other interest in Malaysia, and requires immediate national response”.
Clearly, the circumstances in which a security area can be declared are wide enough to cover a variety of circumstances, some of which may not have anything to do with national security concerns at all.
It also does not help that the NSC Act does not provide a definition as to what is ‘national security’, even though the phrase appears many times in the proposed law.
Within the security area, the Executive would have wide-ranging executive powers.
The NSC may issue executive orders that would include the deployment of security forces in the security area, and may appoint a Director of Operations, who has enormous and unrestricted powers, such as the power to remove any person from the security area, impose curfew, and control movement of persons or vehicles.
This Director of Operations is only answerable to the NSC.
Also within the security area, security forces “may, without warrant, arrest any person found committing, alleged to have committed or reasonably suspected of having committed any offence under any written laws in the security area”.
The security forces also have powers to stop and search individuals; enter and search any premises; and take possession of any land, building or movable property such as vehicles in the security area.
These are essentially powers reserved for situations of emergencies.
Article 150 of the Federal Constitution empowers the King to issue a Proclamation of Emergency if the King is satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security, or the economic life, or public order in the Federation or any part thereof is threatened.
This Act gives emergency powers to the Executive without having to go through the King.
Over the past couple of days, there have been talks of a massive political rally sometime soon.The Government must resist any temptation to use the NSC Act for the rally, even though they will have the means to do so after the Act comes into force.
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