The Government will need to completely repeal the National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016 as soon as possible, following the withdrawal of the Bill to amend the NSC last Wednesday (10 July). The NSC goes against the promised legislative reform and is completely unnecessary as there are already enough laws to deal with security threats. 

There is no need for any amendment to fix the NSC as it was designed with the purpose of granting a handful of individuals unfettered powers to bypass and undermine our nation’s institutions and democratic processes. 

Under the Federal Constitution, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is given the power to declare a state of emergency, while Article 40 states that this must be done “with the advice of the Cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet”. 

Even if amendments to the NSC reduces the powers of the Prime Minister and returns the powers to the Agong, key decisions made by the Council during an emergency would still be carried out by only a select few individuals, i.e., the Home Minister, the Defence Minister, and the Communications and Multimedia Minister.

It is unclear if there is any process in which the Cabinet would be consulted or informed on the Council’s decision. Meanwhile the wide and vaguely defined terms of the Act is also problematic as it allows the NSC enormous scope to determine what makes up a security area. 

It is important to be cautious about the NSC as it can easily be used to silence dissenting voices and is a clear pathway for any future leader looking to create an authoritarian government. 

What is particularly disturbing is how the NSC also allows the army, and the police to use force with impunity and without inquest in the event deaths do occur, make warrantless arrests, control movement and activities of citizens, search individuals and premises, and take temporary possession of land, buildings and other property. 

This is without a doubt a clear violation of the constitutional rights to liberty, speech, assembly and association, and to property as stated under Articles 5, 10 and 13 of our Federal Constitution.

Meanwhile, there is still a gap in our security laws for emergency situations that needs to be addressed. This includes taking security measures and actions in times of peace, such as what happened in Lahad Datu. A new law or amendment to the Penal Code or Criminal Procedure Code can still be an alternative to the NSC Act.

The fight against tyranny was a fundamental principle in the Pakatan Harapan Government’s victory during the last election and it is important that we remain committed in bringing forward positive legislative reform.