According to a report in FMT, on 18 January 2020, hundreds of people rallied to call for the release 12 Malaysian Tamils detained under the draconian Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) for alleged links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This gathering commemorated 100 days of detention for the 12 men who were arrested under the, commonly called Sosma.
The article also claims that the gathering called on Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and the Pakatan Harapan Cabinet to release the men and abolish Sosma in keeping with their manifesto promise. I would like to note that, while Harapan promised to abolish some laws SOSMA was not one of these. Indeed, the widely held notion that Harapan promised to abolish SOSMA is incorrect. Here is what Promise 27 of the Harapan Manifesto said on the matter –
…. The Pakatan Harapan Government will also abolish draconian provisions in the following Acts:
• Penal Code 1997 especially on peaceful assembly and activities
harmful to democracy
• Communications and Multimedia Act 1998
• Security Offences (special measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA)
• Peaceful Assembly Act 2012
• Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) 2015″
So what exactly the people can hold the Harapan government to, depends on an interpretation of the phrase ‘draconian measures.’ In this regard, the manifesto itself states that a Harapan government would “ensure an effective check and balance” by revoking “all clauses that prevent the Court from reviewing decisions of the Government or the laws introduced by the Government.” I suggest that the provisions of SOSMA that allow for police detention without bail before trial are just such ‘draconian measures’, as they grant licence to the agents of the executive to incarce suspects outside of the ambit of judicial review.
In fact, as reported in Bernama, on Nov 29, the High Court ruled that this portion of SOSMA is unconstitutional “because it divests from the courts the judicial discretionary power to evaluate whether or not to grant or refuse bail.” These are the provisions that can be misused, and will be seen to be misused even when they are used with good intent. In the interest of all accused persons and for the good name of the Malaysian judicial process, these provisions must be revoked immediately.
As I have suggested before, the 12 Malaysian Tamils are being held on the basis of charges that, at best, seem to defy logic. As they sit out their 100th day in prison, and while their appeals for bail to work slowly through the courts system, there is, as yet, no credible sign that the LTTE exists. At worst, these charges are based on guile and malice. As Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy, is reported to have said on behalf of his organization, “We feel that these arrests are politically motivated.” Please see On Being Malaysian Tamil 7