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Malaysia passes tough law to deal with ‘extraordinary’ threats by terror entities

Malaysia’s parliament today passed a tough anti-terrorism bill to deal with “extraordinary” threats posed by terror entities such as the Islamic State (IS), a move denounced by opponents as a harsh blow for civil rights.

After 15 hours of heated debate, the Parliament passed the ‘Prevention of Terrorism Bill’ without any amendments. The bill will allow those involved or commissioned to carry out terrorist acts to be detained for years and have their movements restricted.

Members of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition vociferously defended the necessity of preventive measures to deal with “extraordinary” threats posed by terror entities such as the Islamic State (IS).

Opposition lawmakers, however, argued that some provisions in the bill were against human rights and civil liberties. The decision came hours after authorities arrested 17 people who were planning terror strikes in the Muslim majority country.

Earlier, Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar told reporters that the arrests of the 17 Malaysians, including two who had just returned from Syria, showed that the law was needed and would prevent things from happening rather than wait for things to happen.

Ruling party members said the law had enough provisions to safeguard the rights of everyone.

Opposition member N Surendran questioned the need for a two-year detention period without trial as countries with bigger threats such as the UK and the US had shorter detention periods.

He argued that the existing Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) had sufficient detention periods. “Although POTA states that no person shall be arrested for their political beliefs or activities, it also states that the decision of the Prevention of Terrorism Board cannot be challenged unless it is on procedural matters,” he added. Several opposition MPs said they planned to table their own version of POTA, omitting the provisions on detention without trial and the anti-terrorism board.

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