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No place for Sosma in govt's 'Masyarakat Madani'

Rather than the new government justifying its reliance on Sosma, it should take immediate steps to release all of those who have been detained under the law.

P Ramasamy
3 minute read

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has clearly articulated the need to build society on the basis of Masyarakat Madani. 

Such a thinking calls for close cooperation between the government and society on the basis of the values of good governance, sustainability, goodwill, care and human values. 

However, the translation of this concept in concrete terms means getting rid of unjust and obnoxious laws that are detrimental to nurturing human goodness and values. 

If Malaysia is to be regarded as a society based on Masyarakat Madani, then there is a need to do away with some of these obnoxious laws. 

In this respect, the presence of the Security Measures (Special Measures) Act of 2012  (Sosma) comes to mind. It is a mind boggling legislation that was described as “jurassic” by one former parliamentarian. 

The law was passed under the administration of Najib Razak to replace the Internal Security Act (ISA) and, to some extent, the Emergency Ordinance. 

Sosma itself cannot stand alone but coexists with the Penal Code. While Sosma provides for detention and investigation, the subsequent charges come under the Penal Code. 

Even though persons accused of crimes can be held for 28 days, once charged they can be held in remand for years before they are found guilty or released by the court.

To say that persons accused of crimes can only be detained for 28 days is rather misleading. Once the 28 days are over, the Penal Code comes into play. 

Of course, the police have the option to charge detainees under other laws such as the Societies Act. This was done to detainees arrested under Sosma in 2017.

After the 28 days, once the Sosma detention is period over, the Penal Code is relied on for charges, period of remand and others.

They can be held in remand at prisons for an indefinite period until their cases are disposed of by the court. 

Thirty-three individuals who were arrested under Sosma in 2020 in Sungei Petani are still languishing in prisons, waiting for the court to hear their charges. 

Whether they will be found guilty or not remains to be seen. However, if they are found not guilty then the whole exercise of detaining them under Sosma and later to be charged under the Penal Code does not make any sense. 

If they are found not guilty, is the government going to pay compensation to them and their families?

It is completely misleading for some in the government to say that Sosma is a better piece of legislation compared to the ISA on the grounds of the length of the detention period. 

Sosma is an evil, just like the defunct ISA. It is a law against humanity. 

You cannot talk about human rights and human decency and yet rely on cruel and unjust laws against humanity. 

There is no defence against Sosma as there are enough laws in the country to prevent gangsterism and terrorism. 

The police force cannot rely on outmoded legislation to combat crime. It merely shows that the police force have not yet attained their required professionalism.

The worst and the most cruel part of detention under Sosma is the collateral damage on the families of those detained.

It is not just the detention of individuals, but the collateral financial and emotional damage inflicted on their family members. 

If person detained has an average family of four, can one imagine the cruelty imposed on them, especially if the person detained is the sole breadwinner. 

There are more than a hundred Sosma detainees incarcerated across the country. This means that there are nearly 400 to 500 dependents, including parents. 

The government, by detaining individuals, is in fact depriving their families and dependents of their source of livelihood. 

Why should detention under Sosma impose a collateral punishment on the families of those detained?

The detentions under Sosma happened during the previous governments headed by Muhyiddin Yassin and Ismail Sabri Yaakob. 

With the coming of the new unity government anchored by Pakatan Harapan, the public has high expectations. 

Rather than the new government justifying the reliance on Sosma, it should take immediate steps to release all of those who have been detained under Sosma.

Most new governments, when they come into power, will release prisoners detained under the obnoxious laws by earlier governments. 

There is nothing to stop the unity government under Anwar from calling for the unilateral release of those detained under Sosma.

Can obnoxious laws such as Sosma coexist with Masyarakat Madani?

P Ramasamy is Penang deputy chief minister II and the assemblyman for Perai. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.