July 1, 2018
Mr. Mat Sabu, what are you up to–Rebranding the NSC Law?
by Cmdr (rtd) S. Thayaparan
“Najib’s rights are far more numerous and superior in comparison with the rights and powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.”
– Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the National Security Council law
COMMENT | I just don’t get it. The current Pakatan Harapan grand poobah says because they (Harapan) thought they could not win the elections, they made strong promises. Bersatu supreme council member Rais Hussin claims that the promises were not plucked out of thin air but instead the election manifesto was the efforts of a wide range of political operatives and various stakeholders. Now the disputed debt in this country is the Harapan excuse as to why their 100-day promises cannot be met.
Malaysiakini columnist P Gunasegeram and Rais Husin and anyone actually reading the Harapan 100-day manifesto would understand there is a whole load of promises that could be kept in the first 100 days which would not incur any expenses. I once wrote that if Harapan manages to do quarter of what they said they would do, they would be a better government than BN.
Now it is all about rebranding or reshuffling. BN government agencies and programmes that were supposed to bring ruination to this country have been rebranded Harapan-style, with the expectation that nobody cares because of the euphoria – as Rais calls it, I say Kool-Aid – is strong and folks who think otherwise are kicked to the curb.
I get it. I really do. When people are baying for the blood of people from the establishment and Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says that certain people are needed to remain in place, even if they did something wrong, that is the reality of politics. You do not destroy the bureaucracy by burning it to the ground. That is stupid. However, this should not be used as an excuse to shy away from promises made which does not incur expenses and that gives democracy back to the people.
Now Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu (popularly known as Mat Sabu) says that the National Security Council (NSC) Act is supposed to be “reshuffled”. It’s all about how this Act is actually a “good vehicle” for government minions to serve the state. All that is needed is a few legal provisions to be “reshuffled”.
What the hell have they been giving him to smoke in the Defence Ministry? This is especially when people like his boss, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and just about all the big guns in Harapan had previously argued that the Act would be used on the opposition, usurped the power of the Agong and as Kit Siang claimed, with this law, Malaysia would replace Myanmar as a rogue state.
This is what he said – “When the Najib government regards democracy and human rights activists as bigger threats than ISIS terrorists as envisaged by the monstrous NSC bill, Malaysia is replacing Myanmar as the rogue nation in Asean.”
Okay, I am not an objective person when it comes to the NSC Act. My public statements on this issue were brazen calls for street demonstrations and my frustrations as to why this never happened are a matter of public record. When Mahathir first started attacking this law as diminishing the powers of the Agong, he met with pushback from Universiti Malaya Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi, who is now in the Council of Eminent Persons, or whatever it is called.
Shad said – “In sum, the grounds of challenge against the NSC Act mentioned by Tun Mahathir may not be sustainable in law.” But he also wrote – “The NSC Act is an ordinary law passed by a simple majority under Parliament’s ordinary law-making powers. It is not a law under Article 149 (to combat subversion). As such, several issues of fundamental rights violation are relevant.”
Of course, as former Federal Court judge Sri Ram Gopal and others point out, this law did bypass the consent of the rulers.
Why keep the law?
So, two points. The first point of this law, as many Harapan advocates claim, diminishes the power of the Agong and the second, that it violates basic human rights and legitimises the authoritarian power of the state in the hands of one person.
Recent events and the shocking behaviour of royalty before and after the elections demonstrate that perhaps we are better off with formalising certain powers of the executive which further curtail the powers of the royalty. Those issues which Mahathir – and yes, people like me – claimed were being taken away from the royalty are perhaps better left in the hands of the executive without any need of consultation with the royalty.
And if this is the case then, why retain this law? Just pass laws which further restricts the powers of the royalty and for further more definite issues, wait till you can amend the constitution with the necessary two-thirds majority. Indeed, reshuffling what aspects of the law?
Which brings us to point two. We have a load of draconian laws in this country which Harapan claimed that they would end. For heaven’s sake, there was even waffling on the Anti-Fake News law a few weeks ago and Harapan decided that it was not worth the public anger to retain such laws. So, this idea of tweaking a law which Harapan had claimed was destroying the role of the Agong is absurd.
Why even reshuffle the bad parts of this law? What does the Council of Eminent Persons, which Shad Faruqi is part of, think of this new development? Does Harapan want its grand poobah to have powers superior to the Agong? Maybe it should be this way. After all, a former UMNO autocrat, and now Harapan big cheese, has been doing that for years?
We have enough “security laws” to deal with the type of warfare – including psychological – against the kind of extremism – Islamic – that poses a danger to this country. Not to mention, willing partners and assets which have been sidelined for far too long, because the former regime was mired in corruption scandals.
There are Harapan leaders willing to go on record stating clearly that this law has to be removed. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why Mat Sabu would even consider such a move. Maybe some folk in Harapan really do not understand why this piece of “monstrous” legislation needs to be removed or maybe, just maybe, they think it is a good thing, now that there is really no opposition in this country.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.