PETALING JAYA: The National Security Council (NSC) Bill will be used to manage "specific and narrow" security threats and not target individuals, unlike previous legislation, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said.
He said the Bill, unlike the now repealed Internal Security Act (ISA), could only be used to address security threats in a certain area.
"It is not meant to target individuals. ISA dulu boleh (The ISA could be used to target individuals before) because of its wide powers to counter the armed communist threat," he said in an interview with The Star.
Nur Jazlan explained that laws such as the Prevention of Crime Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) and the Penal Code had their own functions.
"Those are what we call 'business as usual' acts but the NSC Bill is meant to handle the pressing and immediate threats," he said.
Nur Jazlan cited a case in which a man was caught for planning to plant bombs in the Bukit Bintang area in Kuala Lumpur several months ago.
"This Bill is more for handling transborder and terrorism threats that require quick response, especially along our long border areas.
"It is not to quell political dissent. I hope people will not confuse the two," he added.
He said some groups like Bersih were worried that the Bill would be used to control political activities.
The four demonstrations held by Bersih were managed by police and not the National Security Council, which was formed in 1971, he said.
But Nur Jazlan acknowledged the public perception that people could be charged under the Bill, referring to concerns about the case involving former Umno leader Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan and his lawyer Matthias Chang, who were charged under Sosma.
Both men were subsequently released by the courts.
"Sometimes, the Government can make mistakes but at least they can be addressed and corrected by the courts.
"Under the ISA, there was no such thing as a judicial review and it was up to the minister," he said.
He also said the Bill was not rushed through in Parliament and that the Government had been consulting relevant stakeholders since 2011.
He said the Bill should be looked at objectively as it had outlined checks and balances.
"The issue now is the perception or trust of the people in the institutions and the people that carry it out," he said.
Asked what constituted a security issue, Nur Jazlan defined it as "any harmful threats to the three pillars of the nation, which is the executive, Parliament and judiciary".
He said security threats could not have a narrow definition, given rapid globalisation.
"Security threats are always evolving; we are behind the curve in handling trans-national crime and terrorism.
"This is our problem today. We are behind the curve in catching the perpetrators before they commit the crime, preferably in the planning stages," he said.
Aggrieved parties can seek legal redress against NSC
PETALING JAYA: Amidst concerns about fundamental civil rights being ignored, there are safeguard measures provided under the National Security Council (NSC) Bill for those seeking a legal remedy, said Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed.
Anyone who suffers damages, is deemed to be unfairly treated or is aggrieved by the actions of the NSC, the director of operations or any member of the security forces can seek legal redress in court, he said.
"There is a provision which states that anybody who is affected can take action against the NSC if it can be proven that it did not act in good faith.
"This was never available before under the (repealed) Internal Security Act (ISA)," he said in an interview.
Critics have argued that all safeguards guaranteed to a citizen in terms of arrest and search, and seizure of property are suspended in a security zone declared under the NSC.
This, they said, ignored the fundamental rights of the people in the zone.
But there are provisions in the clauses stating that compensation is payable and it is decided by the director-general of national security.
The Prime Minister, based on the recommendation of the Chief Secretary to the Government, appoints the director-general.
The NSC Bill, which was passed without amendments after two days of debates in the Dewan Negara last Tuesday, provides for the establishment of 15 special powers under the NSC and security forces to coordinate operations on national security.
The Bill also empowers the Prime Minister, upon the advice of the council, to declare certain areas in Malaysia as a security area and special powers are given to security forces in the area.
Nur Jazlan said the NSC would only be called in during extreme circumstances and when speedy response was needed, especially to counter transnational crime and terrorist threats.
"Modern terrorism is no longer about recruits being trained in camps. Anyone could be radicalised by what they source from the Internet.
"That is why even the Communications Minister is added into the council - it concerns the Internet," he said.
"Today, acts of terrorism can be done by a small group of people. These types of attacks can happen suddenly and quickly. Better surveillance and intelligence sharing between government agencies is needed."
Citing the 2013 intrusion in Lahad Datu as an example, he said the lack of intelligence sharing between the police and army had caused a delay and hesitance over who was the rightful authority in charge.
"So, the NSC will be useful in declaring the small area as a security area. The director of operations will be appointed; mind you, it is not the Prime Minister as people think. It will be somebody from the army or police and they will coordinate the response to quell any threat.
"It is primarily for the use of securing our border areas," he said.
Nur Jazlan also said the Bill does not give the Prime Minister the ultimate power, nor could he usurp the power to declare an emergency.
"The power to declare an emergency still lies with the Agong," he said, adding that the proclamation of a state of emergency and declaring an area as a security zone were different matters.
When a security zone is declared, the Federal and state constitutions are not suspended, he said.
"There are concerns, for example, that if the Sarawak state election does not go the way some people prefer, the Government will use the NSC to declare the entire state as a security area.
"That is not true because the state and Federal governments will still function," he said.
Nur Jazlan also said the declaration of a security area was only for a maximum of six months, adding that the declaration and renewal of it would be laid before Parliament.
"In our calendar year, our Parliament is never out of session for more than three months. When the Dewan sitting starts, the request for the security area has to be tabled.
"The Parliament can reject it and once it does, the security zone declaration can be lifted," he said.