Let me get straight to the point: the National Security Council Bill 2015 tabled in Parliament yesterday is nothing less than a prelude to dictatorship, the final step in the ‘Zimbabweization’ of Malaysia.
The bill, now being rushed through parliament with unholy haste, is so patently and blatantly undemocratic in its intent that it staggers the imagination that any government in this day and age would even contemplate it. It is a new low from a government that has consistently and increasingly disregarded the spirit of our constitution and trampled upon the rights of the people with callousness and impunity in order to cling to power.
The bill creates, in effect, a police state wherein the government and its agents are empowered, in the name of national security, to do anything they want with total impunity and without regard to constitutional constraints and obligations.
And this from a government that has already amassed more power than any previous government. Today, the executive has untrammelled powers over almost every aspect of national life especially given the erosion of traditional checks and balances. Our citizens have never been more at the mercy of the executive, never been more vulnerable, more exposed, more intimidated.
Nevertheless, the government continues to insist that it needs more power, less checks and balances, less accountability. Why? What clear and present dangers lurk in the shadows that require such powers to deal with? What threats are out there that would justify such draconian laws?
Is it the threat of ISIS militancy?
Surely the police already have enough power to tackle that head on. What is lacking is the political will to root out Islamic militancy and radicalism and the wisdom to craft winning strategies instead of the empty rhetoric that we keep hearing.
Is it to meet the kind of incursion that Sabah experienced not too long ago?
Again, we have all the firepower, the manpower and the necessary legal framework to deal with such contingencies. After all, we’ve spent billions on defence and training. We have warplanes and submarines and tanks and all the other hardware that is needed. Again, what is lacking is leadership. Our men in uniform are brave and dedicated but the same cannot be said of our leaders who were indecisive and incompetent throughout the crisis.
Is it to meet the kind of civil disturbance brought on by extremists groups like the Red Shirts who recently threatened a bloodbath in Petaling Street?
Again, we don’t need more laws; what is needed is for the government itself to take a clear, consistent and unequivocal stand against extremism, racism and religious intolerance. After all, if the Chinese ambassador could single-handedly calm the situation in Petaling Street, think what the Prime Minister could do if he really wanted to.
Clearly, therefore, this bill is more about consolidating power, silencing dissent, stifling the opposition and intimidating the people than anything else. It is a power grab plain and simple, the end game in UMNO’s strategy of acquiring absolute and total power. It will crush what’s left of our democracy. It will institutionalize kleptocracy. It will bring us closer to the day when we will once again be ruled by a national operations council. It will make peaceful change impossible.
It is an act of desperation by a government fearful of its own people and terrified of change. As the man in the street knows all too well, the greatest threat to Malaysia today is not from subversion, incursion or invasion but from a government which has increasingly abused its authority, corrupted our institutions, and undermined our social fabric just to stay in power.
To be sure, government apologists will demand that we trust the government, arguing that it is acting in the best interests of the nation, that we live in an increasingly dangerous world. Baloney to all that; this is a government with a long history of betrayal and broken promises and a litany of abusive actions and undemocratic behaviour. It simply cannot be trusted with such power.
The day this bill becomes law will be a day of infamy and shame, a day of mourning, the blackest day in our history. Parliament must rise to the occasion and reject this draconian measure before the lights go out on our already feeble democracy.
[Dennis Ignatius, a former Malaysian ambassador, firmly believes that we should put our trust not in the leadership of great men but in the sanctity of great institutions – our secular and democratic constitution, a democratically elected parliament, an independent judiciary, a free press and a government fully accountable to the people. He blogs at http://www.dennisignatius.com]