Friday 28 November 2014

Malaysia tables White Paper on Islamic militancy; says new anti-terror law needed

Malaysia plans tougher anti-terror laws
Growing Islamic militancy must be contained, warns Home Minister
By Shannon Teoh Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2014

MALAYSIA will table an anti-terrorism Bill early next year to counter a growing Islamic militancy that has seen at least 39 Malaysians join the fighting in Syria and Iraq.

The legislation will include preventive measures and allow passports to be revoked to prevent Malaysia from becoming a terror hub, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said yesterday.

A White Paper on terrorism tabled yesterday by Prime Minister Najib Razak said the government must "act immediately to contain" the influence of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State (IS).

The 19-page policy document said efforts required to tackle the ISIS threat have become more challenging and current laws need to be strengthened.

"However, to address new threats concerning the presence of militants in conflict areas and returnees to Malaysia, a specific law is needed," it said.

"The rise of IS influence can inspire and reignite militant groups in Malaysia. The call to jihad by IS is very influential as it is based on Islamic compulsion that has been manipulated so Malaysians are compelled to join them."

Datuk Seri Najib told Parliament that the government will table the new law in the next parliamentary sitting, adding that the current laws are insufficient to contain ISIS ideology.

"This White Paper also proposes to strengthen existing laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, Prevention of Crime Act and the Penal Code to curb the threat of terrorism and militancy," he said.

He urged young Malaysians and their parents "to reject this extremist ideology which can destroy the future of all".

Mr Zahid told a press conference that the current laws cover problems only after a terror act has been committed. The anti-terrorism Act will plug this loophole by providing preventive measures, he said.

Police have identified 17 Malaysians who have fought for ISIS and 22 who joined another militant group operating in Syria and Iraq known as Ajnad al-Sham.

Of the 39 militants, six are former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees. The law was repealed as part of Mr Najib's liberal reforms in 2011. The ISA allowed for preventive detention, an element that the authorities have since said is crucial in stamping out terrorism.

They also lament the fact that they are unable to hold suspects for longer periods.

Critics, however, accused the government of using the ISA to detain people without trial.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said during the debate on the White Paper: "Laws that are to be introduced must be stern in dealing with terror but with no room whatsoever to be interpreted for political purposes."

Other countries including Australia and Britain have enacted additional anti-terror laws in recent years, while Singapore has maintained its ISA.

Five Malaysians have died fighting in the Middle East, including a suicide bomber. Of 40 arrested in connection with ISIS, 21 have been charged and 19 released for lack of evidence, said the White Paper.

"Malaysia faces security risks following the return of militants from Syria and Iraq... able to commit terror acts as lone wolves or in groups in Malaysia or across borders," it warned.

ISIS has assets worth RM7 billion (S$2.7 billion), according to the White Paper, with a daily cash flow of RM3 million from black market oil sales.

Terror threat at 'a whole new level' in Malaysia
Minister hopes White Paper detailing foreign threat will raise awareness
The Straits Times, 26 Nov 2014

KUALA LUMPUR - The national security threat posed by foreign terror groups working with local militants has reached "a whole new level", Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said.

A White Paper on the militancy threat has been tabled and will be debated in Parliament.

The policy document will detail how terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are trying to influence local political parties and raise funds through social media.

"The threat is real and we hope this (White Paper) will create more awareness on both sides of the political divide and (among) Malaysians as a whole," he told The Star newspaper yesterday.

"If they (ISIS) can kill among Muslims, then they are able to kill non­-Muslims (also).

"People must be alerted (to this) and precautions should be taken," the minister said.

The White Paper - only the third such policy document issued in Malaysia - will outline proposed measures to combat and prevent terrorism.

Datuk Seri Zahid said Prime Minister Razak Najib will touch on the involvement of Malaysians in terror cells and the need to amend existing laws or introduce new ones to combat terrorism.

"We will either strengthen the seven existing laws by amending the clauses or propose a new Anti­Terrorism Act as a preventive measure," the Home Minister added.

The previous two White Papers focused on the activities of two local deviationist sects.

"This time around, the foreign threat is real and the threat from within is also real," Dr Zahid said.

"What is worse now is that Malaysian fighters are connected to foreign fighters and this poses a whole new level of threat."

Some 100 Malaysians were identified as being involved in extremist activities, of whom 39 were involved with militant groups in Syria and Iraq, especially ISIS, according to the Home Ministry.

"Five have returned to Malaysia. Three have been arrested and two others are still under investigation," the minister said.

The Home Ministry is monitoring social media on two fronts - the recruitment of Malaysians and the terror cells getting more donations and funding, Dr Zahid said.

He also said foreign militants were trying to influence local parties through their members.

He urged both ruling and opposition MPs to debate the White Paper "sincerely".

"The important thing is for us to work together… It is about the security of the country," he said.


Najib does U-turn on repealing Sedition Act
By Shannon Teoh Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

PRIME Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia will not only retain but also enhance the Sedition Act, a controversial law he had pledged to repeal. That earlier promise had angered many in his ruling party who see the Act as crucial to protecting the Malay race and ensuring national harmony.

"As the Prime Minister, I have decided that the Sedition Act will be maintained. Moreover, it will be strengthened and improved," Datuk Seri Najib, who is Umno president, said in his opening address at the party's annual general assembly yesterday.

Though critics were swift to accuse him of reneging on his 2012 promise to abolish a law that they say is used to stifle dissent, the decision will greatly bolster his standing in the party.

Mr Najib told party delegates he was heeding the voices of the Umno leadership and of Malay non-governmental organisations, which on Sunday jointly called on Umno to defend Muslim rights.

Two new clauses will be added to the Sedition Act, he said.

One will protect the "sanctity of Islam" and ensure all religions are not insulted, and the other will criminalise calls for Sabah and Sarawak to secede from Malaysia.

On Wednesday, Mr Najib tabled a proposed anti-terror law, which will include "preventive measures", an element the opposition has warned could be abused for political purposes, as seen before the Internal Security Act (ISA) was repealed in 2011.

The repeal of the ISA - which had allowed for detention without trial - was the highlight of Mr Najib's democratic reforms, but his efforts to scrap the Sedition Act faced stiff opposition, especially from right-wing Malay groups.

The move also cost him dearly. In August, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is still influential in the party, said he was withdrawing his support for Mr Najib because his policies were wrecking the country.

Najib's U-turn draws flak from critics, support from party
By Shannon Teoh Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

TWO years after saying he would abolish a 1948 law, which earned him considerable backlash from many in his own party, Prime Minister Najib Razak backtracked on that promise yesterday.

Watched by his harshest critic Mahathir Mohamad, Datuk Seri Najib announced at the Umno general assembly meeting that he had decided not to repeal the Sedition Act but would bolster it instead.

Critics have accused the government of using the Act to silence political opponents.

A dozen sedition cases have been prosecuted so far this year - the highest number since Mr Najib took office. None of the cases this year involved threats of violence.

When Mr Najib became prime minister in 2009, he pledged to undertake democratic reforms to promote openness.

The Internal Security Act, which allowed for detention without trial, was subsequently abolished.

But his efforts did little to revive Umno's fortunes in last year's general election.

His announcement drew intense criticism from civil society and the opposition, including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim who said the government's struggles were not related to the provisions under the Act but "governance and corruption and justice".

Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia chief Phil Robertson said Mr Najib was "doubling down on his bet that a rights abusing strategy is the best way to maintain power" as the Sedition Act allows the government to embark on politically motivated crackdowns.

For Mr Najib, his decision brings him back on solid footing within his ruling party. Some 85 per cent of Umno divisions had urged him to retain the Sedition Act and hardline groups had pushed for the law to be strengthened further to protect the special rights of the Malays.

Yesterday, Umno leaders rallied behind him, with vice-president Zahid Hamidi saying that Mr Najib was showing he "understands the heart of his people".

Deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin, who had led the charge to protect the Sedition Act, said defending the law "doesn't mean the transformation has failed".

"The PM has heard the (people's) views and this is his decision.

"Even if it doesn't appear similar to what was said before, this is a new firm stance," he said at a press conference.

Referring to the proposed

anti-terror law, he said "unforeseen circumstances" such as the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which has recruited at least 17 Malaysians, meant that if current laws were insufficient, the government had to strengthen them.

Tun Dr Mahathir, who in August said he no longer supported the man he helped become prime minister five years ago, attended the Umno meeting, which is seen as a sign of support.

Mr Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who heads Ideas, a policy think-tank, said the announcement showed that Mr Najib did not have a firm grip on his party, which was resisting "the direction that its own president wants to take".

"He has a progressive vision but his party is conservative and regressive.

"This U-turn shows he is not brave enough to make difficult decisions," he told The Straits Times.

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