No apology for tough security laws: Najib

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during a joint press conference in Tokyo on Nov 16, 2016.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during a joint press conference in Tokyo on Nov 16, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday that he will not apologise for introducing a tough security law, amid criticism of its use to detain an activist.

He said legislation like the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma, was needed to deal with the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"In some countries in the past, it was not an offence to support Daesh, nor to travel abroad for terrorist military training. They have had to rush to bring in new laws,'' Mr Najib said, using another name for ISIS.

"Let me be clear, I make no apology for making the security and safety of all Malaysians my first priority by passing Sosma, the Prevention of Terrorism Act and National Security Council Act," Malay Mail Online quoted him as saying at the opening of the Kuala Lumpur International Youth Discourse.

Mr Najib also said that prevention through education must be given equal emphasis, according to the report.

"We have set up the Regional Digital Counter-Messaging Centre to synchronise efforts to counter radical social media messages and to present the true image of Islam, within Asean and beyond.

"We have formulated a special rehabilitation module that has been so successful that it has been translated into three languages - Arabic, English and French - so that other countries can make use of our expertise," he said.

The Malaysian leader said more than 100 people had gone through a deradicalisation programme devised by the government, and fewer than 10 of them had relapsed.

The Malaysian authorities had invoked Sosma to detain Ms Maria Chin Abdullah, chief of electoral reforms group Bersih, for 28 days without trial on Nov 19.

She was arrested on the eve of the Bersih 5 rally for attempting to commit "activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy", police said.

The move led to accusations that the government had reneged on its pledge never to use the law against political dissent.

Sosma was pushed forward by the Malaysian government as a necessary tool to hold suspected terrorists, opposition lawmakers said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 27, 2016, with the headline 'No apology for tough security laws: Najib'. Print Edition | Subscribe