Independent oversight needed on Emergency powers

Fong (right) speaks during his lecture.

KUCHING: An independent oversight is needed on the exercise of the Emergency powers by the federal government.

State Legal Counsel Datuk Seri JC Fong said there must be a mechanism to control the exercise of such powers other than the authority given to Parliament to revoke or annul an Emergency or any Ordinance promulgated when an Emergency is in force.

“We need to have some independent oversight, it is important that the courts should have some degree of authority to review the exercise of such Emergency power.

“Of course, there are some quarters who say perhaps there should be an amendment to Article 150.

“It remains to be seen whether there is any effort made by the government or by the Parliament to amend Article 150 to ensure that Emergency powers are not abused in any way in the future,” he said during an online lecture held by The Sarawak Initiatives (TSI) on Saturday (July 31).

Fong said there have been criticisms that Emergency powers have been used and abused in circumstances where emergency conditions did not exist.

He said an instance was when former Chief Minister Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan lodged a complaint to the Privy Council that the Emergency proclaimed during his time “showed none of the usual signs and symptoms of ‘a grave emergency’”.

“So this means the Courts have ruled that the circumstances which bring about a state of emergency are non-justiciable – meaning you cannot challenge the executive judgement that these emergency circumstances are based.

“As emergencies invariably result in the erosion of the fundamental rights and liberties of the people and the constitutional authorities of the state and ownership and use of the state’s natural resources, judicial oversight of its exercise must be allowed.

“This is because the majority in Parliament belongs to the same political party or coalition as the Prime Minister who advises the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to proclaim an Emergency,” he said.