Malaysia's preventive detention 'failed to halt crime rise'

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Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, in his first public criticism of detention without trial - enshrined in now-repealed restrictive laws including the Emergency Ordinance (EO) - revealed many suspects were detained under the laws, but public order and security did not improve.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 Under the EO, which was repealed in 2011, a detainee could be held in detention for up to two years.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.

But Mr Gani said Malaysia did not need preventive laws to curb serious crimes as it had a good police force to handle crime effectively and efficiently. "Therefore, I find it difficult to rationalise reasons on why we need to introduce again preventive laws," he was quoted as saying by Bernama.

Mr Gani also confirmed that the government had approved the use of electronic monitoring devices to track those suspected of organised and violent crime while they are out on bail. The Home Ministry plans to use such devices by the end of next month, Bernama reported.

His comments came as six men narrowly escaped death when a gunman on a motorcycle opened fire on them late last Friday. The six friends, aged between 30 and 50, were attacked while having a drink at a coffee shop in the mainland Penang town of Nibong Tebal, The Star reported. They are in stable condition after being taken to hospital with gunshot wounds on their legs, arms and buttocks.

When Penang police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi was asked if the incident had anything to do with the shooting of five gang members in Penang, he said it was still too early to tell.

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