Malaysia's Deputy Home Minister Mohd Azis Jamann said in parliament that the police officials can check an individual's mobile phone to check it does not contain anything obscene or threatening to the security of the people of the nation.

The deputy home minister stated that that provisions of Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (Act 588) allow the police officials to check mobile phones of any individual on a random basis.

Parliamentary question

While addressing parliament, the deputy home minister Mohd Azis Jamann also said individuals whose phones are being checked can also ask the police officers for their identity so that the power does not get misused. Jamann further said that the police officers must have a serious reason before asking for an individual's mobile phone.

"It does not matter if the person is a politician, a businessman or just anyone who is suspected of having the potential to breach security issues ... I believe the police will take the appropriate action," Mohd Azis Jamann responded to a question from opposition leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob. The opposition leader had asked if the police officers were particularly tapping the phone calls of politicians sitting in the opposition.

Reports of misuse, remedy

Chan Ming Kai, Alor Setar's member of parliament, asked if there were any reports of misuse of the power. On this, the deputy home minister replied that if SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) are not being properly followed, the individuals must report it to the police headquarters at Bukit Aman in Kuala Lumpur.

An individual using a phone
An individual using a phone Flickr

Mohd Azis Jamann further added that such matters can also be brought up to IPCMC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) but since it does not exist yet, the public is free to report it to Integrity and Compliance Department.

Violates privacy concerns

The provision sparked a lot of controversy among Malaysian people as an individual on twitter questioned the guidelines of standard operating procedures and condemned saying that it's a violation of their fundamental right of privacy.

Another individual tweeted that this provision gives police the right to do moral policing. There is a growing mistrust among the police officials and Malaysian citizens as 252 police officers were found using drugs in the past.