Malaysia to table two new anti-terror laws

THE Malaysian government will table two new anti-terror laws and five amendments to existing laws in the present Parliamentary session after Cabinet approved draft bills on Friday to try to stem the flow of recruits joining militant groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The minister in charge of domestic security, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, told reporters the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and Foreign Fighters Act (FFA) will be coupled with changes to existing laws needed to punish terror acts.

"POTA is drafted to prevent potential terrorists among our own local citizens, whereas the second terror law is to stop foreign militants from entering Malaysia as a transit point," the Home Minister was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insider on Saturday.

An aide to Mr Zahid confirmed these comments to The Straits Times. The aide said the bills would be tabled early next month.

The current session of Parliament will end on April 9 and the government's comfortable majority means the bills and amendments will likely be passed and could be fully implemented by the end of the year.

On Thursday, Mr Zahid explained that POTA would also have provisions to rehabilitate militants or those radicalised by militant ideology.

Other details such as two-year preventive detentions, which can be renewed indefinitely, and the use of electronic monitoring devices had been made known through recent media reports.

He also responded to criticism that the government would abuse the preventive detention clause for political purposes because it was similar to the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) that was repealed in 2012.

"It will even allow detainees to appoint lawyers to seek a judicial review to determine if the detention is warranted or justified," he was reported as saying, making reference to the ISA's lack of legal recourse for a detainee.

Media reports have said POTA would require a person detained under the law but released with "restricted residence" to wear an electronic monitoring device.

Decisions on detention would be made by a five-member advisory board to ensure they are made independently, Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said earlier this month.

The government first proposed a new anti-terror law after tabling a White Paper in parliament last November, outlining its position on the ISIS threat.

While at least 68 suspects have been caught in the past two years, the number of Malaysians who have gone to Syria has risen from 30 in the first half of 2014 to 61 in the second half. At least 10 had been killed, Mr Zahid said Saturday.

But the White Paper said five had returned to Malaysia, sparking fears that they would start to recruit aggressively.