Dewan Negara Approves The NSC Bill To Maintain Peace And Order In Malaysia

The bill gives a great deal of power to the council for all matters related to national security and threats to the peace of the country.

Cover image via The Malaysian Insider

Ending the weeks long debate over the controversial National Security Council, the Dewan Negara, approved the new NSC 2015 bill, via a voice vote, at 8:20pm, yesterday, 22 December.

Lawmakers, opposition parties and Malaysians in general, have been up in arms about the bill that has might give immeasurable power to the security council, set to be led by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

National Security Council bill

Image via Malaysiakini

Soon after Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr. Shahidan Kassim, tabled the bill in the parliament and the Dewan Rakyat passed it on 3 December, reports on how the government's new security council committee would infringe on freedom of speech and democracy started surfacing, with most lawmakers and journalists explaining what the law can do and how its presence could affect Malaysians, negatively.

Political news portal, Malaysiakini, even came up with the infographics, clearly breaking down how the security council would function, if it comes into effect.

Members of the opposition parties quickly vowed to fight against this bill and even a petition against it was created and 22,626 people have signed the petition so far.

According to The Malaysian Insider, the NSC bill was extensively discussed by 37 senators from both Barisan Nasional and the opposition party members at the Dewan Negara sitting.

The bill was approved without any amendments, despite two days worth of debates and reservations raised against it.

The bill, which was bulldozed through the lower house or Dewan Rakyat in a matter of two days. allows the council chaired by the prime minister to declare security zones, one step below emergency which is under the Agong's responsibility.

Critics say the security bill gives unfettered powers to a sitting prime minister without the need to get a royal consent during national crises.

After a great deal of discussion, here's what the government has to say about the newly approved NSC bill:

Speaking against all the concerns raised against the bill, Dewan Negara president Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang, stressed that the National Security Council is being set up for the greater good of the country and that Malaysians should set aside all their prejudices against it and get on board with it

Image via The Rakyat Post

"It (the law) has been created to improve and maintain order in the country, after taking into account all matters that have been raised, prior to this.

"There should be no prejudice, it is not done for any individual but for our beloved country," he said after the third reading of the Bill.

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr. Shahidan Kassim, stressed that the security council will in no way increase the powers of the Prime Minister or let PM Najib surpass the orders and powers of the Yang diPertuan Agong

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim

Image via The Malaysian Insider

"Clause 18 of the Bill empowers the Prime Minister to declare an area as a security zone, and to control and manage threats and react at an early stage, before the situation becomes severe.

"The power to declare a state of emergency is still in the hands of the Yang diPertuan Agong. So, statements alleging that Clause 18 allows the Prime Minister to take over the Agong's power is not true at all, because the proclamation of a state of emergency and declaring an area as a security zone are different," he said.

Explaining the election of members for the new National Security Council, Shahidan said that they will be selected based on credibility and suitability for the job requirements

To a proposal to include representatives from Sabah and Sarawak, as well as ministers in the NSC, Shahidan said members were selected based on expertise, and not in the spirit of including state representatives.

"Having too many members is not appropriate with the main function of the Council, which revolves around security and state secrets.

"However, the Council will set up a special committee which requires committee members and here, any party, including ministers, will be called if the need arises for its smooth running," he added.

The National Security Council 2015 has very different functions compared to the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma):

Shedding light on the importance of the national security council, Shahidan informed that this committee exists to specifically deal with declaration of security zones and issuing powers to the authorities, should emergency situations arise

The police force on standby during the Bersih 4.0 rally in late August

Image via The Malaysian Insider

Explaining the need for the Bill when there were existing laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, Shahidan said both Acts were totally different in terms of their functions and objectives.

"The objective of Sosma is on procedures and investigations relating to security offences, while Pota is to prevent the acts of terrorists operating from abroad," he explained.

He said the NSC Bill was more geared towards the establishment of the National Security Council, the declaration of security zones, and the granting of special powers to the security forces.

"Therefore, when it was raised that the NSC Bill is similar to Sosma and Pota, it is not true and totally baseless," he added.

Requesting the people to put some faith in this council and the government, Shahidan emphasised that the government has promised to improve any shortcomings in the bill, should they find any along the way

"I wish to state the readiness of the government to consider and scrutinise in details all the proposals and if there are any shortcomings, we will improve the bill. The government will do its best for the betterment of the future," Minister in the Prime Minister Shahidan Kassim said in his winding-up speech, without elaborating on any specific provisions.

"The government is not cruel. Those who murder the innocent and kidnap for ransom are cruel.

"You (the senators) have to remember, the security issues are not far away, they are on your doorstep. So don't be cruel to the people by not passing the bill which will ensure their safety," he urged.

For a deeper understanding on the new National Security Council bill, read SAYS's coverage on it here:

Earlier this year, the government passed the Prevention Of Terrorism Act 2015 (POTA) as a replacement to the iron-clad Internal Security Act 1960:

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