KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 15): Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has criticised the government’s move to allow the military to arrest or take action against those found violating the movement control order (MCO).

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday said under the implementation of the Emergency Ordinance, the authority held by the police and army are the same, and this will help efforts to manage the Covid-19 situation better.

On Tuesday, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah proclaimed that an emergency would be enforced up to Aug 1 as a proactive measure to contain the worsening Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia.

In a statement today, LFL coordinator Zaid Malek said while Ismail Sabri had stated that such powers are given by way of an "Emergency Ordinance", the latter failed to clarify whether any ordinance had already been promulgated, nor had he disclosed details of any such ordinance.  

Zaid added that Ismail Sabri had failed to justify as to why there is a need to grant the military powers to arrest MCO offenders.

“The Armed Forces are trained for combat in armed conflicts against foreign invaders and are ill equipped to deal with civilian arrests.

“The powers to detain civilians should only be exercised by police officers, who have been trained to deal with such arrests.

“Army personnel must only be utilised to assist police officers in ensuring MCO compliance as they did throughout the MCO period last year,” he said.

Zaid said there is legitimate concern that allowing military personnel to arrest civilians may lead to excessive use of force or other abuses that infringe the civil liberties of the public.

“Snippets of this possibility could be gleaned from the viral video in December last year that depicted army personnel abusing migrant workers, supposedly for breaching a quarantine order.

“While we do not suggest that all military personnel have conducted themselves in such a manner, the concerns raised by such incidents are very real,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021, which was gazetted yesterday, grants additional powers to the military.

Section 7(1) provides that for the duration of the emergency, the military, on the authority of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or others empowered by the Agong, shall have the authority of a police officer as per Act 593 of the Penal Code, in addition to the authority under the Armed Forces Act 1972 (Act 77).


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