Se­cu­rity law de­buts amid 1MDB scan­dal

The Myanmar Times - - World -

new se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion came into force yes­ter­day in Malaysia, with crit­ics say­ing the “dra­co­nian” law threat­ens democ­racy and could be used against op­po­nents of the scan­dal-tainted prime min­is­ter.

The Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Act was pushed through par­lia­ment in De­cem­ber by the gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak, who has faced calls to re­sign for more than a year over a huge al­leged cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

The leg­is­la­tion gives the gov­ern­ment power to de­clare virtual mar­tial law in ar­eas deemed to be un­der “se­cu­rity threat”.

Crit­ics ac­cused Mr Na­jib and his gov­ern­ment of en­act­ing the law, and other tough re­cent leg­is­la­tion, to ward off po­lit­i­cal and legal chal­lenges.

“The law will def­i­nitely put fear in peo­ple plan­ning to par­tic­i­pate in street protests,” said Wan Sai­ful Wan Jan, head of the In­sti­tute for Democ­racy and Eco­nomic Af­fairs, a think­tank.

“The pub­lic per­cep­tion in terms of the tim­ing of the dra­co­nian law is that Na­jib wants the law in or­der to stay in of­fice.”

The leg­is­la­tion al­lows a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil headed by the prime min­is­ter to sus­pend civil lib­er­ties in des­ig­nated “se­cu­rity ar­eas”, giv­ing se­cu­rity forces sweep­ing pow­ers of search, seizure and ar­rest.

Mr Na­jib has de­fended the law as nec­es­sary to com­bat ter­ror­ism, but its pas­sage came amid the on­go­ing furore over al­le­ga­tions that bil­lions of dol­lars were stolen from a state in­vest­ment fund he founded and over­saw.

The cor­rup­tion scan­dal swirling around Mr Na­jib has spawned a cross­party al­liance, in­clud­ing even mem­bers of his own rul­ing party, de­mand­ing he be re­moved and in­ves­ti­gated.

Mr Na­jib and in­vest­ment fund 1Malaysia De­vel­op­ment Ber­had (1MDB) deny wrong­do­ing.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Act “em­pow­ers the Malaysian au­thor­i­ties to tram­ple over hu­man rights and act with im­punity”.

“There is good rea­son to fear that the act will be yet another tool in the hands of the gov­ern­ment to crack down on peace­ful protests un­der the guise of na­tional se­cu­rity,” said Josef Bene­dict, its deputy di­rec­tor for South East Asia and the Pa­cific, in a state­ment.

Au­thor­i­ties in sev­eral coun­tries are in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions that 1MDB was looted over sev­eral years.

Mr Na­jib has sti­fled do­mes­tic pres­sure by cracking down on crit­ics within his rul­ing party, scut­tling do­mes­tic probes, and ar­rest­ing whis­tle-blow­ers and jour­nal­ists.

The United Na­tions’ hu­man rights agency and other rights or­gan­i­sa­tions have pil­lo­ried the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Act as a po­ten­tially fright­en­ing step back­wards.

“We are gravely concerned that ... the act may en­cour­age hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions,” Lau­rent Meil­lan, act­ing head of the UN Hu­man Rights Of­fice

for South­east Asia, said in a state­ment last week.

Last month, the United States Jus­tice Depart­ment launched a move to seize more than US$1 bil­lion in as­sets which it says were pur­chased with money stolen from 1MDB, in­clud­ing by a per­son iden­ti­fied only as “Malaysian Of­fi­cial 1”– a ref­er­ence to Mr Na­jib, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports.

The US move has height­ened ex­pec­ta­tions of fur­ther anti-Na­jib protests in Malaysia, but there are con­cerns the se­cu­rity law could be used to pre­vent them.

Last Au­gust, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple paral­ysed the cap­i­tal here de­mand­ing he stand down. –

Photo: AFP

Na­jib Razak shows of no signs of leav­ing the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice de­spite be­ing linked to a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar scan­dal.

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