KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 – The Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) 2015, to combat militant activities in the country, was finally approved at 2.25am this morning — after more than 14 hours of debate in the Dewan Rakyat. Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, in winding up the Bill, said in total there were eight negative perceptions raised. According to Zahid, the Opposition felt Pota was unjust for having provisions without trial, denial of human rights, arrests under hearsay and perceptions that the person in custody will be abused.
In addition, Zahid said there were allegations that the police investigations would be biased, family members could not meet prisoners, the vast police powers of arrest, non-transparency of terrorism prevention agencies, that they were not sincere and had powers that were too broad. “I consider the perceptions given were due to some of us failing to distinguish its use for prevention. “I wish to emphasise elements of rehabilitation will be given priority. “I beg to move that this Bill be read for the third time and passed now,” said Zahid.
Pota was passed after a division of votes, with 79 agreeing and 60 disagreeing. Pota was formulated as part of government efforts to address militant activities in the country following the formation of terrorist elements which were spreading and threatening national security. The Opposition fought Pota as it believed that it resembles the Internal Security Act (ISA), which was previously repealed.
However, in Pota, the executive powers of ministers in the ISA will be taken over by the Anti-Terrorism Board, whose members are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Additionally, the detained persons can meet their relatives and hire a lawyer of their choice. On Nov 26, 2014, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak presented a White Paper entitled “Towards Addressing the (IS) Threat” in Parliament to confirm the continuing threat of terrorism in the country and abroad.
The White Paper stressed the government’s commitment, along with the international community, to combat the threat posed by the IS (Islamic State) militant group. Based on the recommendation in paragraph 59 of the White Paper, a new law was enacted to specifically address the threat posed by groups like IS.