KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Attorney-General says preventive detention failed to check the rise in violent crimes even as the authorities blame a recent crime wave on the repeal in 2011 of restrictive laws that allowed detention without trial.
Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, in his first public criticism of detention without trial - enshrined in now-repealed restrictive laws including the Emergency Ordinance (EO) - revealed many suspects were detained under the laws, but public order and security did not improve.
"This is because detainees returned to their former activities after they were freed," the Malaysian Insider quoted him as telling a forum organised by the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation in Kuala Lumpur last Saturday.
But, he added, the police continued to rely on the EO to lock up suspected hardcore criminals as they were simply "addicted to it". Under the EO, which was repealed in 2011, a detainee could be held in detention for up to two years. The home minister could renew the detention order for another two years and repeat this cycle indefinitely.
Mr Gani said he believed a better way to deal with suspects was to charge them in court with the many laws that could be used to arrest and prosecute those suspected of crimes.
"Preventive laws are an abuse (of) human rights and personal liberty as enshrined in our federal Constitution and this guarantee must be safeguarded at all costs," the Malaysian Insider quoted him as saying, adding that the international community welcomed the dismantling of the laws.
Since the repeal of the EO, a surge in crime - particularly the more than 35 shootings nationwide since this May that have claimed at least 24 lives - has led to pressure on the government to reintroduce a law that would allow detention without trial.
Earlier this month, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said the government was seeking to bring back detention without trial, but with wider oversight where the powers of his office might be transferred to a panel of professionals to check abuses of power.