KUALA LUMPUR (Mar 25): The police is justified in making arrests under the colonial-era Sedition Act 1948 to prevent acts of terrorism in the country, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.
The prime minister said use of the Act was a preventive measure and if not used, more people could become victims to acts of terror.
The controversial law, criticised by many here and abroad for quelling legitimate dissent, was useful in preserving ethnic relations, he added.
"We also place importance on ethnic and religious relations and that is why we are strengthening the Sedition Act. All this is meant to forestall something bad from happening to our country.
"As the saying goes in English, 'prevention is better than cure'. I believe that it is better for us to have preventive detention laws than having someone commit an act of terror.
"If terrorism were to happen, many lives may be sacrificed," Najib said in a speech to the police force at the 208th Police Day anniversary here today.
Najib said there was no reason for the government to apologise for using the Sedition Act, despite international criticism against the colonial-era law.
"We should not be apologetic. Some may say this is not democratic, this (violates) rights to freedom, and more.
"But I want to say that there is no absolute freedom. There is no place for absolute freedom without responsibility in this country," said Najib.
He also gave his assurance that the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which will be tabled in Parliament soon, would not be used for political purposes.
Najib added that the executive arm of the government would have no say in whether to detain an individual under the new act.
"The government has no intention of using the new act for political purposes. That is why the power to detain is not placed under members of the administration.
"We will place it under a credible body so that only those truly involved in terrorism can be detained under the new act. That way, we can guarantee Malaysia will continue to be safe," said Najib.
He also reminded Malaysians not to belittle the efforts of the police force in ensuring public safety.
"We should not disrespect the police and look down on them by using words and insults that are unsuitable, as if the police act freely as they like.
"The groups that insult the police's honour are completely irresponsible," said Najib.
The police have come under heavy criticism after nearly 90 anti-goods and services tax (GST) protesters were arrested on Monday as they were demonstrating at the Customs Department headquarters in Kelana Jaya.
Opposition politicians have also accused Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim of taking selective action and targeting opponents of Barisan Nasional (BN).