THE management of national security is a state-centric responsibility.
Hence, a government has to enact its own security laws to protect the state’s sovereignty, core national values, critical survival interests and the wellbeing of its citizens.
This is because a government must protect the physical base, the idea and the institution of the state from domestic vulnerabilities and external threats.
The physical base of a state “comprise its population and territory”.
The idea of the state focuses on the state’s national identity and ideology.
The institution of the state relates to the entire machinery of the government, including its executive, legislative, administrative and judicial bodies.
Malaysia has several legislation to protect numerous referent objects connected to the above elements of the state.
Threats to these referent objects normally take place at the sectoral security levels.
As such, most Malaysian laws mainly protect Malaysia’s military, political, economic, identity and environmental security sectors, as well as the state’s human security and cyber security.
These laws include the Sedition Act 1948, Prevention of Crime Act (Poca) 1959, Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) 2015, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) 2012 and the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, which are being studied by the government with a view to either amend or repeal them.
In this context, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil rights bodies only act as non-state security actors, playing the checks-and-balances role to ensure these laws are not abused by the government.
They are also non-state actors in a securitisation process. In this case, they can identify which referent objects are under threat and can recommend solutions to overcome this threat.
But they have no power to execute their recommendations.
Additionally, NGOs and civil rights organisations are free to perceive a certain security law as “draconian” or repressive.
They can also demand that such a law be repealed.
But it is the government that finally decides on whether this law needs to be abolished, amended or retained.
For example, there are numerous NGOs demanding the death penalty, including for serious drug offences, be abolished.
But it is the government which decides on the finality of this punishment.
Let us take the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 as an example. This law was amended in 1983 during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration 1.0, due to several reasons.
One, to deter Malaysia from becoming a major transit for Southeast Asian drug traffickers.
Two, to impose a mandatory death penalty on traffickers sentenced in courts for drug offences.
Three, to cut the supply of drugs to almost half a million addicts who were mostly Malays.
The introduction and enforcement of this so-called draconian law in 1983 was carried out after Dr Mahathir had securitised drugs as Malaysia’s number one public enemy.
Tun Musa Hitam, as the then home affairs minister, additionally said that the introduction and enforcement of the death penalty for drug trafficking was to protect Malaysia’s human security, political security and national security as its referent objects.
If there were five others behind each arrested addict, it means there were 129,510 drug addicts in Malaysia in 2017.
Similarly, drug traffickers exist and operate in a more sophisticated manner.
This means that all laws relating to drug smuggling and trafficking must be more stringent.
What will be the impact of this decision on the future of human, political and national security of this country?
Malaysians in favour of abolishing this capital punishment are rationalising their demand based on universal human rights principles.
But the government of Malay-sia has the prerogative and wisdom to disagree with such demands based on its own threat perception.
This prerogative, wisdom and threat perception should also be applied by the government in its study on six security laws stated above, before it decides to repeal, amend or retain them.
The government has access to all data and information regarding the above laws.
These enable the government to make the most appropriate decisions in the national security management of Malaysia.
The writer is a former member of parliament for Parit Sulong,Johor (1990-2004)