Two years after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak abolished the controversial ISA, Emergency Ordinance and Restricted Residence Acts, a spike in crime and rampant shootings has caused the government to rethink its decision on detention without trial.
Recently, it tabled and passed amendments to a not-much-used and not-much-heard-of Prevention of Crime Act (PCA), which allows a suspected criminal to be detained for two years, and a further two years, without being tried in an open court.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is an former ISA (political) detainee himself, tabled the amendments in parliament.
In this Q&A interview with The Star, he insists that the PCA is not the ISA and he believes it cannot be abused in "any way".
Q: Doesn't reintroducing the PCA, which is largely seen as the ISA in a different form, show that PM Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak made a mistake when he abolished the ISA and EO two years ago?
No. In terms of political transformation, I think he has done his part.
The original PCA was tabled in 1959. Why the PCA is being re-introduced now is to include Sabah and Sarawak, which were not covered back then.
The PM's directive is that there will be no detention without trial. And what the A-G's chambers has done is advise the Home Ministry that the executive has no power to detain anyone (without trial).
Under the amended PCA, a Board of Preventive Crime will be established. Initially, this was to be made up of only three judges or legal practitioners. But the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club asked to change this to five instead of three people, and the Dewan Rakyat agreed.
As for the decision to detain someone, this can be reviewed by the High Court once that decision has been made. To me, this is not detention without trial because the detention is preventive.
The problem for the police is how to get evidence for court because they are dealing with gangsters and criminals. I made a comparative study with the US and the UK and found that although criminals there are brought to the open court, there are some preventive detention clauses which are given priority before strong evidence is found.