Kuala Lumpur, Aug 1 (IANS) A controversial security law which came into force on Monday in Malaysia will give sweeping security powers to the government and possibly restrict civil liberties, rights groups fear.
The new legislation, establishing a National Security Council under direct control of Prime Minister Najib Razak, went into effect amid accusations that the Southeast Asian nation’s leader had embezzled millions of dollars from a state-run development fund in past years.
Activists claimed that the law could also be used to silence political opposition, Sputnik News reported.
The law allows the country’s Prime Minister to designate “security areas” where the forces deployed can search people, vehicles and buildings without a warrant, EFE news reported.
It also allows the imposition of curfew and detention of suspects without any charges.
Najib defended the law last week saying it was necessary due to the current security threats, including jihadi terrorism, in the country.
However, international organisations, including the UN office for Southeast Asia, and human rights groups warn about the perils of the new law.
Amnesty International has urged the government to repeal the law, after it was cleared by both houses of the Malaysian parliament last December, saying it placed extraordinary and potentially abusive powers in the hands of the National Security Council.
“With this new law, the government now has spurned checks and assumed potentially abusive powers,” Amnesty International (AI) deputy director for South East Asia and the Pacific, Josef Benedict, said in a statement.
AI recalled that Najib’s government has often invoked laws for national security to stifle peaceful dissidence.
“The Najib government is increasingly resorting to repressive new laws that are said to protect national security but in practice imperil human rights,” Benedict said.
Laurent Meillan, regional representative of the UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia, last Friday said she was concerned that these provisions could “encourage human rights violations” and be used to restrict freedom of expression.