Response to the Bar Council on Prevention of Crime Act

18 August (Malay Mail) – In response to the press release by the Bar Council as reported in The Malay Mail Online on the 12th of August 2017 alleging that the amendments made to the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 effectively eliminates the due process and protections and are affront to the rule of law, I vehemently deny the said allegations.

But before we go on, I would like to dispel the insinuation by certain parties that conflates POCA and ISA (Internal Security Act) which I find to be outright misleading. It is clearly spelt out under section 2A of POCA that no person shall be arrested and detained solely for his or her political beliefs or political activities and unlike the dreaded ISA, even though POCA is under the purview of the Home Minister, he has no say whatsoever in the enforcement of the act.

POCA is intended to combat crime and is specifically designed to combat crimes that are organised in nature be it in the form of gangsterism, triads or syndicates.

The amendments to the said Act are mostly administrative in nature and do not cause any worrisome doubts about the strength of the due process and judicial review provisions, in fact, it strengthens the due process and judicial review provisions together with the checks and balances which are never illusory as alleged.

I would like to strenuously remind, as I have during the parliamentary debates, that there are no amendments diminishing the roles and functions of an inquiry officer. In fact, the inquiry officer, which is an appointed civilian officer, will conduct an independent inquiry to verify the police investigations. Thus this procedure provides the necessary ‘checks and balances’ before the said report of the inquiry officer is submitted to the Prevention of Crime Board.

Besides, there are various levels of ‘checks and balances’ available to the detainee such as the Advisory Board and the Courts by way of judicial review or “habeas corpus”. It is also to be noted that counsel is at all times permitted to appear and represent the detainee at the inquiry as well as the Advisory Board.

This goes in complete contrast to what has been alleged that the detainee has no right to a legal counsel to make representation or to appear before the inquiry officer or the advisory board.

It should be noted as well that within seven days of an arrest, a Public Prosecutor must be informed and be referred upon, the Public Prosecutor plays a major role in deciding whether the detainee be remanded or otherwise to be investigated by the police and to appear before the inquiry officer, which role has never been removed in any way.

The repeal of section 11 of the Prevention of Crime Act does not cause the detainee to lose his rights but instead has the effect of speeding up with case to be brought before the board. The right of review of the findings or the inquiry officer is widened by virtue of the new Section 10A.

All the decisions made in POCA cases are made by an independent board, whose chairman has at least 15 years of relevant legal experience, it is not a rubber stamp committee as the record clearly shows that a total of 277 cases where the request to register has been declined based on the reports given by the inquiry officer between the period of 2nd of April 2014 to 31st of July 2017.

The Home Ministry is determined in stamping out the vile and corrupt influence of organised crimes that seems to have the tendency to exploit the most vulnerable parts of our society and we plan to fulfill our obligation in securing the peace and harmony of our nation in an effective and just manner while balancing the rights of our citizens and the rule of law.

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