Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pakatan betrayed Malaysians by allowing passage of Pota — P Ramakrishnan

Pakatan betrayed Malaysians by allowing passage of Pota — P Ramakrishnan

Wednesday April , 2015
02:13 PM GMT+8

APRIL  — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) had not acted responsibly and had therefore betrayed the expectations of Malaysians. They were expected to protect the human rights of citizens, safeguard the rule of law and ensure that abusive laws would not be passed by default.
By all measures, Malaysians have been terribly let down by PR’s failure to anticipate that the Barisan Nasional was hell-bent on pushing through this corrosive Bill, come what may. The fact that the BN was prepared to be in Parliament into the wee hours of the morning to have their way clearly showed how determined they were to achieve their objective of passing the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota).

For PR to say that they did not anticipate there would be bloc voting is a lame excuse that is not acceptable.

Tony Pua hit the nail on the head when he told Malay Mail Online, “Of course there would be bloc voting, the point is to be prepared for that.”

To claim that there was no prior instruction for all law makers to be present is to fail in their duty as elected representatives. They don’t have to be mollycoddled; they should be responsible to themselves. They should know how to conduct themselves when faced with a situation that threatened to take away our basic, fundamental rights.

They owe it to those who voted for them.

Had all the PR MPs been present, this draconian Bill would have been defeated. After all, it was passed with 79 votes for and 60 against. With full PR attendance, the final vote count would have been 70 for and 86 against. There was this golden opportunity to throw out this drastic Bill that violated the rule of law.

Unfortunately, PR goofed! A total of 26 PR MPs helped to pass this undemocratic Bill.

Out of the 132 BN MPs, only 70 were present, with 62 of them absent. It could be interpreted that these 62 MPs were not in favour of the Bill and so they stayed away giving the PR a slim chance to defeat the Bill. But 26 PR MPs absented themselves and, as it were, saved the day for the BN!

As a result, the Bill was passed in its original form without any amendments. It can be argued that the ISA has returned in another garb. The Potahas all the characteristics of the ISA: the proposed law will allow the authorities to detain suspected terrorists without bringing them to Court for up to two years, with the Prevention of Terrorism Board (POTB) empowered to renew the detention order indefinitely.

We must take it with a pinch of salt that this law would be applicable only for terrorists. The assurance does not hold water. Weren’t we told that the Internal Security Act (ISA) was meant for the communists — but how many non-communists and legitimate political dissidents were detained under the ISA? Will it be any different this time around?

Human Rights Watch said Potahas re-opened the “Pandora’s Box for politically motivated, abusive state actions” that had been a feature when Putrajaya used the former ISA.

The Bill does not allow any judicial review in any Court — no Court shall have jurisdiction over decisions by the board in its discretionary power. When the judiciary is ousted, it paves the way for abuse and arbitrariness. It is always repugnant when an accused is denied his defence in a Court of law. We cannot pretend to be a democracy when we pay scant respect to the rule of law.

PR can get ready to be roasted!

* P Ramakrishnan is an executive committee member of Aliran.
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