Counter-Terrorism Law and Practice in Malaysia serves as a guide for people who are interested in exploring more about this enduring subject of terrorism and counter-terrorism. In an era punctuated with constant terrorism threats, enacted terrorism legislation on counterterrorism was insidious, which allowed for the circumvention of constitutional and procedural safeguards guaranteed by our Federal Constitution. Protecting basic human rights is often overlooked whenever a democratic nation fights terrorism, including Malaysia. The scope of this book is about anti‐terror laws and practice in the courts of Malaysia with a special focus on anti‐terror laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (POTA).
When Malaysia responded to Resolution 2178, the POTA 2015 was enacted. Under POTA 2015, the term ‘terrorist act’ was cross-referred to Section 130 B (2) of the Penal Code in Chapter V1A. According to the definition of the Penal Code, the ‘terror act’ is done or the threat is made with “the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause” and intended to “intimidate the public or a section of the public”, or to “influence or compel the Government of Malaysia or the Government of any state in Malaysia, any other government or any international organization.” Further, subsection (3) provides for any harm or damages inflicted while committing the terror acts.’” Interestingly, there are exemptions under Section 130B(4) where political protest or industrial demonstration is not considered a terrorist act if it does not intend harm, such as grave risk to the health and safety of the public or a section of the public. Such an exception does not exempt the legitimate form of protest.
For a demonstration to fall outside the ambit of the law, the government needs to show that the conduct was intended to create a severe risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public. However, the point to be made here is that in seeking to prevent terrorism, the government must be careful not to suppress legitimate dissent under the disguise of national security. Terrorism laws must also be clear enough, leaving no room for advancing myriad ways of interpretation. More so When the punishment provided in the Penal Code is severe for suspected terrorist activities. For example, under Section 130J (1) (b) of the Penal Code, if someone is found guilty of supporting terrorist acts, they can be liable to a maximum imprisonment of 30 years or life imprisonment or a fine, including forfeiture of assets. This key definition issue is significant in determining whom the State will consider a terrorist and who will be subjected to strict laws. In the absence of an unambiguous definition, the cumulative effect will diminish the protection of individual rights and the sanction of harsher penalties concomitant with “terrorism.”