Introduction of SOSMA to replace ISA draws mixed reaction from law practitioners

KUALA LUMPUR: Almost a year after the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 was gazetted to replace the repealed Internal Security Act 1960, arguments persist as to whether the new law provides the appropriate balance between the safeguarding of national security and the rights of the accused.

The Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, or SOSMA for short, was approved by the Dewan Rakyat on April 17, 2012, given the royal assent on June 18, 2012, and gazetted on June 22, 2012.

SOSMA is an act “to provide for special measures relating to security offences for the purpose of maintaining public order and security and for connected matters”.

Senior lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun is of the view that SOSMA does not infringe on the rights in law of a detainee.

He said the act provided for the police to immediately notify the detainee’s next-of-kin of his or her arrest and for the detainee to consult a lawyer of his or her choice.

The act says a police officer may, without warrant, arrest and detain any person whom he has reason to believe to be involved in security offences and that person may be detained for a period of 24 hours for the purpose of investigation.

The police officer may extend the period of detention for a period of not more than 28 days, for the purpose of investigation.

The police officer would have to immediately notify the next-of-kin of the person of his arrest and detention and conditionally allow that person to consult a lawyer of his or her choice.

Said Mohd Hafarizam: “The ISA was stricter in the sense that the timeframe (for detention) was longer and the detainee could be held without trial.”

He said the public had to know why the detention period under SOSMA was made rather excessive – 28 days.

He noted that one would say that such an action would infringe on certain rights and fundamental liberties lay down under the Federal Constitution, but added, however, that SOSMA was a subsidiary legislation under Article 149 of the Federal Constitution.

He said the act was strict about the timeframe of 28 days in the sense that it did not allow any extension of time over and above the 28 days.

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