Lawyers Arrested: Police Denying Citizens The Right To Know Their Rights

Press Statement: 11 October 2010

SUARAM strongly condemns the police for the arrest and detention of 4 legal aid volunteers who were distributing pamphlets on police remand powers.

Those arrested were lawyers Jason Kong & Chan Khoon Moh; and chambering students Norashikin & Mohd Azwan, from the Bar Council’s Legal Aid Centre (LAC). They were arrested while distributing the Bar Council’s “Red Book: Police and Your Basic Rights” to members of the public at a mall in Bukit Jalil, part of the activities of the National Law Awareness Week recently launched by the Bar Council.

The four volunteers had received permission from the mall management for their leafleting but were stopped by the police officers and asked if they had a permit. After examining the “Red Book”, the police officers deemed that it was an “anti-police” publication, requested their ICs and asked them to come to IPD Sungei Besi to give their statements. They were taken to the Sungei Besi IPD around 3:00pm and were released some three hours later without charge. No statements were taken and earlier confiscated copies of the “Red Book” were returned to them

It should be noted that the police officers did not follow procedures in their questioning of the volunteers by forcibly compelling the volunteers to follow them to IPD Sungei Besi by holding onto their identification cards. This is a clear violation of police procedure, since the four of them were not suspects in any criminal case.

SUARAM is concerned with the arbitrary arrest and detention of the volunteers as it is a blatant abuse of power and shows disregard for the human rights principles enshrined in the Federal Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the UDHR states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; …and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media… regardless of frontiers.” Article 10(1) of the Federal Constitution also guarantees the freedom of speech and the right to assemble peacefully of every Malaysian citizen.

SUARAM is also disturbed to learn that the reason given in arresting the lawyers was having materials deemed to be “anti-police”. SUARAM is of the view that it is the right of citizens and organisations to hold and impart critical opinion on a public administration due to the fact that the police are directly accountable to the public. The practice of deeming a document “anti-police” and subjecting the persons to arrest and detention is unacceptable in a democratic country like Malaysia.

SUARAM demands that the newly appointed Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Ismail Omar to walk the talk of his 4P (Proactive, Protective, Performance-oriented and People-oriented) plan by stopping the use of intimidation by police officers in the discharge of their duties. The IGP should also ensure that police officers practice the principles of human rights in their duties and also that policing is more compliant to the standards of human rights and prescribed laws.

SUARAM also calls for the implementation of the IPCMC as recommended by the Royal Commission on Police to hold the police accountable over their abuse of power and human rights.

If anything, the PDRM should realise that any initiatives to empower citizens with the knowledge of their rights in terms of police powers would also benefit the PDRM in the long run, at the very least in lessening the instances of people impersonating police officers.

SUARAM also hopes that the irony of the lawyers’ arrest for distributing a pamphlet; launched in 2006 by de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz; and which provides information on what to do when stopped, arrested or questioned by the police; is not lost on the IGP.

Released by,
Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar