12 September 2012 NST
By FARRAH NAZ KARIM AND ALANG BENDAHARA
LYNCHPIN: Michael Chong believes ISA helped in fight against human smuggling
KUALA LUMPUR: DATUK Michael Chong doesn't get frustrated easily. But the thought of human smugglers, drug traffickers, vice syndicates, religious extremists and terrorist groups running their operations relatively unhindered, gets him worked up.
Chong, who heads the MCA's Public Services and Complaint Bureau, had spent a good part of his 25-year career saving people from the clutches of human smuggling and human trafficking syndicates.
A major lynchpin in his fight against these syndicates and their offshoots was the Internal Security Act and the Emergency Ordinance.
"Before the preventive laws were abolished, when human trafficking victims come to me, I would inform the police and they would arrest the pimps under those laws without having to charge them. We didn't have to worry about going to court.
"Now, we can no longer touch the bad guys, as the victims would want to go back to their home country. They do not want to go through the hassle of going to court, testify and then risk having their former bosses being acquitted.
"So now I cannot nail the bad guys because I no longer have the tools to fight this scourge. But I still have to deal with this problem. I am so frustrated by this," Chong told the New Straits Times recently.
Chong said throughout his years of working with the police, he had never seen them abuse the preventive law.
"So to the NGOs (non-governmental organisations) that complain there were too many arrests made under preventive law, I would say that the police carry out their duties based on a set of principles. They will only use it on those who have done wrong."
He said preventive laws are needed in combating human smuggling.
"I have helped Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian girls who were forced into prostitution. Pimps are so good at covering their tracks that to go after the human smuggling syndicates' heads, you need to use preventive laws. Open laws give these criminals a way out."
The NST had run two front page stories as part of its series to highlight the seriousness of this crime in the country and the need for a stronger fist of law to stop Malaysia from being used as a transit country for human smuggling syndicates.
Before the abolition of the law, authorities were ready to use the Internal Security Act against 40 individuals from several human smuggling syndicates who they said posed a "serious security threat" to the nation.
Authorities are asking for more clout to go all out to cripple these syndicates. One way to do this in the absence of the ISA is to amend the Security Offences Act (Special Measures) 2012 and make human smuggling and piracy, security offences, sources said.
They are asking that the scourge that had put Malaysia on the United States State Department's "watchlist" as a transit point in human smuggling be included in the act.
This, they said, would give them time to investigate opened cases and to reduce the burden of proof, as dealing with syndicates needed preemptive measures, including surveillance, intelligence gathering, planting of moles and agent provocateurs -- all inadmissible in court.
Authorities said unless human smuggling is included under the new act, they would have problems using findings of their investigations, as witnesses, many of whom would have dealt directly with these syndicates, would not put themselves at risk.
The new law, however, allows for evidence from witnesses to be given under special circumstances, including in camera. The witness would not be heard or be visible to the accused or his counsel, or put in a situation that could lead to him being identified.
The Security Offences Act covers "offences against the state": waging or attempting to wage war or abetting the waging of war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri and offences against the person of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri. It also covers offences related to terrorism.