Hence it is clear that the Ordinance was promulgated at a time when Malaysia was facing a situation of grave emergency and extraordinary laws and immediate action were required to restore and secure public order, control and suppress the spread of violence and prevent crimes involving violence. Permit me to illustrate the scope of the problem which necessitated the extraordinary powers for law enforcement under the Ordinance.
According to the official figures in the space of three days, 196 persons lost their lives, 180 were wounded by firearms and 259 by other weapons. Further, according to the report by the National Operations Council 9,143 persons were arrested, of whom 5,561 were charged in court. In the process, 6000 persons were rendered homeless, at least 211 vehicles were destroyed or damaged while 753 buildings were damaged or destroyed by fire. Aside from the civil disturbance, widespread looting was also reported. The police were so overstretched to keep law and order that even the police band had to be deployed on peace-keeping duties!
This then was why the Emergency Ordinance was promulgated at that time. Do we still have those conditions today? Would the laws enacted to deal with the problems of that particular period be relevant today?
In more recent times, Malaysia had to defend against an unthinkable attack from the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Sultanate of Sulu. In the aftermath of the Sulu Force attack on Sabah in February 2013, various security measures have been put in place, including declaring eastern Sabah a security zone.
Following multiple kidnappings in 2013-2014 by kidnap for ransom groups and infiltration and incursions by suspected Sulu groups, curfews have recently been imposed in eastern Sabah under the Police Act 1967. Each order may only be made for a limited specified period. This is because this police power was intended to deal with urgent and temporary threats. Each continuation of the curfew order should be made on a "needs basis" only. Therefore the police are required to address their mind each and every time they seek to renew the curfew order and not fall back into old complacencies. Additional care in taking these security measures is required because it potentially targets those of Sulu descent and could give rise to allegations of racially-based law enforcement action.
It is noted that the spate of crime and terrorist attacks in Sabah and detention of Islamic State terrorists have some quarters calling for "ISA-like" laws to be reintroduced. Members of the public are also reacting on this issue. Suggestions have been made that rather than bringing back the ISA, the government should enact new security laws with elements that are missing in the current legislation such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.
The UK legal framework comprising the Terrorism Act 2000, the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000, the Terrorism Act 2006 and the Counter-terrorism Act 2008 are cited for further consideration as examples of effective laws which combat terrorism without any need to impose arbitrary detention without trial.
The efforts of Eliot Ness and his team of nine "Untouchables" (that is non-corruptible) officers in successfully dismantling Al Capone's illegal breweries remains legend. The US federal government pursued Al
Capone's illegal activities in two areas: income tax evasion and violations of prohibition. In a six-month operation, they gathered enough information through surveillance, anonymous tips and wire-tapping to eventually allow the Internal Revenue Service to charge Capone with 22 counts of tax evasion and 5000 violations of the Prohibition Act. Capone was eventually convicted on the five tax evasion charges on 17 October 1931 and sentenced to 11 years in prison and the charges under the Prohibition Act were dropped.
The perseverance of the Italian police also resulted in the arrest and convictions of the murderers of the anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, killed in revenge for their historic convictions of 119 Mafioso. More significantly, police action turned public opinion and the State against organized crime. This led to the arrest of the "boss of bosses", Salvatore Toto Riina. Today, the businesses in Sicily are determined to stop paying protection money and to take back their businesses from the mafia.
The Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 ("SOSMA") was introduced to deal with terrorism and other security offences. It was used in Sabah after the attacks on Lahad Datu. Therefore there is nothing to say that we were not able to deal with the problems of terrorism, etc. in accordance with the existing laws.
Challenge from extremists and returning foreign fighters
At the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) on 29 October 2014, the Honourable Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed stated that, "The threat to world peace and security is not Islam but extremism in the form of intolerance, violence and militancy".
But the reality is that this is no longer just "the other country's problem".
In a letter to the Editor, Ng Tze Shiung wrote that, "There is a growing tendency by Malaysians to label other Malaysians who do not share their views as extremists or advocates of extremism. .. This categorization, however, falls apart because society is not secular and ideology does not predominate life". That is actually what is happening now and what people are concerned about.
The fear of returning foreign fighters became a reality for Malaysia in November 2014. According to the Royal Malaysia Police at least five militants have returned. Three were arrested while the whereabouts of the others are not known. Official numbers say there are 39 Malaysians involved in Syria. Local intelligence agencies are bracing for attempts by returning militants to spread their terror ideologies and provide training for would-be militants. Other sources claim 52 militants linked to terrorism have been arrested by police this year, many of them linked to the Islamic State (IS).
The US State Department's Center for Strategic Counter-terrorism Communications (CSCC) head, Alberto Fernandez, has also emphasized that the new war on terrorism is not being fought in Syria or Iraq but on social media. Recruitment is carried out in various ways to appeal to the sentiments of the subjects, each designed to make the Islamic State (IS) cause attractive. Thus it will be necessary for law enforcement agencies in Malaysia to issue appropriate "counter-messaging" be it on the Facebook or Twitter sites belonging to extremists.
In this as in so many other areas, law enforcement agencies cannot combat extremism alone. The political will of the Governments (both federal and State) must be categorically declared. Since this is an ideological rather than a pure religious issue, civil society, young leaders, religious leaders and the private sector must also do their part to nullify this threat to social order and national harmony.
It is heartening to note that civil society and the public are leading the way through the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) and The
STAR's "Brave Views and Bold Ideas" campaign. Realizing the need for buy-in from our youth, the GMM has spearheaded the "Voices of Moderation" campaign which targets youths as the next step in driving moderation among Malaysians.
Challenge from politicians, religious and community leaders and the mass media
Another challenge to social order and national harmony is the role played by politicians, religious and community leaders and the mass media. A comparison between the statements made by the Malaysian group of these creed against those being made by their counterparts in neighbouring countries, really give rise to questions on whether they consider themselves unifiers or the propagators of further dissention and dissatisfaction, be it for political mileage or otherwise.
After the 1969 communal riots, editors took great care to ensure neutral reporting, whether it was about the victim of an accident or a murderer or other criminal. Conscious effort was made to immediately dampen any potential spark for a racial crisis. The police and other government agencies handled incidents with awareness and sensitivity. Political leaders stepped up to mediate solutions. There is no better example than the understanding, cooperation and compromising spirit between Tunku Abdul Rahman and his then Cabinet members Tun Dr Ismail, Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun Sambanthan. They were the voices of moderation and reason in a roiling sea. Today, many would be forgiven for assuming the opposite to be true.
Challenges in relation to vernacular education and language
It is noted that the issue of education in one's mother tongue and vernacular schools has been a recurring issue because certain quarters view it as hindering the inculcation of unity among students.
When Article 152 of the Federal Constitution is cited to argue that the "national language shall be the Malay language", it is rarely equally emphasized that there are two express provisos as follows:
"(a) no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (otherwise than for official purposes), or from teaching or learning, any other language; and
(b) nothing in this Clause shall prejudice the right of the Federal Government or of any State Government to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community in the Federation.". [Emphasis added]
Further, all citizens have the fundamental right to religion, education and property but this is subject to some exceptions (Articles 11, 12 and 13 Federal Constitution). Article 12 of the Federal Constitution expressly provides that there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in obtaining an education.
It is also noted that although Article 153 of the Federal Constitution imposes a quota restriction for university education, tertiary education opportunities for non-Malays are opened up through local and foreign private schools, colleges and universities. Education abroad is available to those who can afford it and is supported by a specified number of annual Government education scholarships.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, has categorically stated the Government's position on the issue of vernacular schools in his reply in the Dewan Rakyat on 3 November 2014. He declared that the status of vernacular education / schools in the country is recognized and written in black and white in the National Education Blueprint, and this is a fact that has to be accepted by everyone whether they like it or not. The Government is firm on its stand that vernacular schools are part of the nation's legacy and had been part of the nation's education landscape since before Independence. However he noted that the Government could not refrain or stop leaders or politicians from giving their views on the issue.
In this, it is noted that everybody, including politicians, seem to like to put up their views on the Internet. From a social order and national harmony perspective, it is therefore for such persons, in particular leaders and politicians, to exercise the necessary wisdom and restraint when further broaching this issue.