Bersih 2.0 chairman and political activist Maria Chin Abdullah was recently arrested and detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 or better known as "Sosma".
Maria is investigated under Section 124C of the Penal Code.
Many have criticised and condemned Maria’s detention under Sosma.
The critics say that the detention is a form of abuse of the Act, and demanded that Maria be released. Nightly vigils were held at Dataran Merdeka in solidarity with Maria.
It must first be understood that Sosma itself does not create offences.
A person cannot be charged for an offence under Sosma.
It is a law that provides for the procedures, evidential rules and powers to the authorities in relation to what is known as "security offences".
"Security offences", according to the Act include offences which fall under Part VI (offences against the State) and Part VIA (terrorism) of the Penal Code.
Section 124C, the section which Maria is investigated under, is also a "security offence".
Sosma allows for a person to be detained for a "security offence" for up to 28 days without trial.
Section 124C of the Penal Code is the offence of attempting to commit "activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy", an offence that is wide and not specifically defined.
Section 124C, together with Sections 124B to 124N, were inserted into the Penal Code when Sosma was enacted.
The authorities claim that Maria was detained under Sosma to investigate alleged funds received from a human rights organisation, the Open Society Foundation.
But there is no law that prohibits the receiving of funds from foreign organisations.
In any event, it was reported that Bersih 2.0 themselves had said that they had stopped receiving foreign funds a few years ago.
Therefore, the reasons given by the authorities for detaining Maria under a security law is questionable, to say the least.
When Sosma and the amendments to the Penal Code were tabled in Parliament, the Malaysian Bar, civil society and Opposition parties raised concerns about the proposed law that is to replace the Internal Security Act (ISA).
Sosma and the amendments to the Penal Code were packaged together as anti-terror legislation.
The Government assured Parliament at the time that unlike the ISA, Sosma will not be used for political purposes.
The Act even contains a provision that a person cannot be detained for 28 days solely for his or her political beliefs.
Unfortunately, we have seen how just like the ISA, the law has been used on political dissidents.
We have seen before this how former Batu Kawan Umno deputy chief Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan and his lawyer Mathias Chang were detained under Sosma, and now we are seeing the law used on Maria.
In Sosma and the Penal Code amendments, Parliament has passed laws which allowed for the law to be used on those who oppose the Government. We cannot just rely on assurances given by the Government.
It is Parliament’s responsibility to ensure that laws passed must not derogate from the fundamental liberties of every citizen and must not be used for political purposes.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.