Malaysia: ‘Frenemies’ Mahathir and Anwar unite against new security law
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Malaysia: ‘Frenemies’ Mahathir and Anwar unite against new security law

ONCE each other’s fiercest enemy, Malaysia’s ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his now-jailed former deputy Anwar Ibrahim joint hands Monday to issue a statement condemning the National Security Council (NSC) Act, a law recently approved by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government.

In a statement bearing both men’s signatures, the two leaders said the Act “threatens the country’s democratic system”.

According to Dr Mahathir and Anwar, the Act, which came into force just last month, affords Najib arbitrary powers over security matters in the country.

“We observe that all the country’s key institutions like the police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Attorney-General and the central bank are already entirely under his control,” they wrote.

SEE ALSO: Former Malaysian premier Mahathir aligns with foes to oust PM Najib

They alleged that should the Act be invoked, those killed within a designated security zone, whether an official or a citizen, would not be given their due rights to have inquests held to determine their cause of death.

“This Act sidelines the powers and roles of the King and the Conference of Malay Rulers in a crucial issue that concerns the nation’s security and the liberty of its people.

“It is because of this national crisis that we, together with the people, object to this Act and will bring change and reformation to save the rights and freedom of the people, and to develop our beloved country,” they added.

Anwar, when met outside the courtroom at the Kuala Lumpur court complex here, reportedly confirmed the authenticity of the statement, which comes following his highly-publicized handshake with Dr Mahathir during another court appearance earlier this month.

It was the two former rivals’ first meeting in 18 years since Dr Mahathir booted Anwar from Cabinet in 1998 when he was embroiled in allegations of power abuse and sexual misconduct. Anwar’s dismissal and subsequent imprisonment spurned the creation of the ‘reformasi’ (reformation) movement and the formation of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), or People’s Justice Party, the linchpin of federal opposition pact Pakatan Harapan.

“I think it is because, number one, he has taken the initiative to come and show support, which I think is good enough.

“I, of course, thanked him and he pays his support for not only NSC but also reformation. That is important,” Anwar was quoted saying in Malay Mail Online.

SEE ALSO: Malaysia: Ex-PM Mahathir makes amends with sworn nemesis Anwar

The NSC Act was approved by Malaysia’s Parliament in December last year despite heavy objections from the opposition floor. Using their parliamentary majority, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition muscled the Act through each reading in the lower and upper Houses of Parliament to get the law voted through.

The Act official came into effect on Aug 1.

Among the key concerns raised by detractors of the law are that it allows the National Security Council – which is chaired by Najib – to take full command of the country’s security forces in situations that he deems pose threats to national security.

The Act takes effect the moment the prime minister designates an area as a “security area”, a status that will be valid for six months at a time and which the prime minister can choose to renew.

Within this “security area”, NSC forces area allowed to conduct arbitrary searches, arrests and property seizures without a court warrant.

Anwar has filed a lawsuit against the Act and wants the court to declare it unconstitutional and void through an injunction preventing its enforcement.