JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT – Gangster-like arrests point to police state in the making

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) and the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) condemn the gangster-like tactics of the police in arresting social activists and politicians who were involved in the Kita Lawan peaceful gatherings in Kuala Lumpur last week.

1.    On 26 March, DBKL and plainclothed police officers beat up those who were at Dataran Merdeka to collect signatures for the Free Anwar campaign, a 70-year-old woman was among those assaulted. Six persons, including Perak state assembly representative Chang Lih Kang, were arrested and remanded for four days.

2.    On 27 March, armed masked men abducted social activist Hishamuddin Rais as he was alighting from a taxi at Dataran Merdeka. It was only when a police report was made over the shocking incident witnessed by Kita Lawan participants that the police revealed that Hishamuddin was being held at the Dang Wangi police station.

3.    On 28 March, the day the Kita Lawan ‘wedding procession’ was to take place in KL in the afternoon, police arrested PAS Deputy President Mohamad Sabu in Penang at 12.20am.

4.    On 28 March, soon after the Kita Lawan ‘wedding procession’, three people, including PKR Supreme Council member Fariz Musa, were arrested; the other two were released the same day.

5.    On 29 March, at 3.20am, police, allegedly armed with M16 guns, arrested Selangor MP Khalid Samad at his home in Shah Alam after he participated in the KL procession.

There have also been other arrests a few days in the days running up to the Kita Lawan gatherings. When some 100 activists led by Parti Sosialis Malaysia staged a visit to the customs headquarters in Kelana Jaya to demand answers regarding the Goods and Services Tax, 80 were arrested. Three others were later arrested at a solidarity vigil.

In total, within the last one week, 97 persons were arrested. This is a worrying indication of a police state in the making.

Civil society denounces the brute force and heavy-handed action by police. It is even more disgusting when Inspector General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar defended his hardline “no tolerance” stance on the Kita Lawan rallies, supported by Home Affairs Minister Zahid Hamidi.

The IGP was quoted as saying, “We will take actions against individuals trying to ‘incite’ others in not respecting the system.” Yet the police can look away when pro-BN demonstrators held rallies, e.g. outside the Penang government offices or at the DAP headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The IGP has targeted social activists and certain politicians in his scheme of mass arrests, compromising the position of the Royal Malaysian Police as a neutral enforcer of the law. Such selective actions on his part must be condemned in the strongest manner.

What is even more insidious is Zahid’s announcement of the return of detention without trial under a so-called new law, Prevention of Terrorism Act. This law will bring back the dark ages of the Internal Security Act, under the guise of combating terrorists. Such a law must be resisted and rejected as it will be open to abuse by law enforcers that are acting with impunity.

We therefore call upon the government to:

1.    halt all politically motivated arrests. All charges and investigations against the Kita Lawan and Anti-GST protesters must be dropped;

2.    sack the IGP with immediate effect as he has abused his position of power and acted in violation of the rights and freedoms guaranteed to citizens under the Federal Constitution;

3.    withdraw the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Parliament as this law would bring back detention without trial, which runs against the grain of natural justice and fairness; and

4.    establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) without further delay to restore confidence in the Royal Malaysia Police.

 

Issued by SUARAM and the BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee

Police Acting Unreasonably, Undemocratically and Unconstitutionally

 

SUARAM and BERSIH 2.0 strongly condemn the police’s violent behaviour, excessive use of force and ill-treatment against those who demonstrated at the Customs Department office in Kelana Jaya. The police had acted unconstitutionally when they did not informed the detainees of the grounds of their arrest. Instead, they resorted to inhumane and forceful behaviour. Further, the decision to deny the detainees of legal representative is unacceptable and goes against the every known legal principle guarding rights to liberty internationally and nationally.

Refusal of access to lawyers

Article 5(3) of the Federal Constitution provides that “where a person is arrested he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.” This very core principle in our Federal Constitution guarding our liberty was blatantly ignored by the police and the lawyers’ request to meet the detainees was casually dismissed by police with nonsensical and unacceptable answer – “tak ada arahan (no instruction was given).” In their attempt to get access to the detainees, lawyers were forcefully pushed out by the police. The detainees were only allowed access to lawyer 5 minutes before the remand hearing on 24 March 2015 morning, more than 16 hours after the arrest.

The principle of right to legal practitioner is long carved in stone and has been the past practise in the country. The authorities must remember that the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land and the police’s blatant disregard of Article 5(3) is a severe violations of the civil liberties of Malaysians.

Detainees not informed of grounds of arrest

The detainees arrested were given absolutely no explanation of the arrest even when the detainees repetitively asked for it. They only found out about the grounds of arrest and investigation the next day during the remand process.

Further, Khalid Ismath was detained by police on 23 March 2015 at 11.00 am and was only released the next day at 7.00 pm, an excess of 8 hours than what was lawfully permitted. Article 5(4) of the Federal Constitution provides that “where a person is arrested and not released he shall without unreasonable delay, and in any case within twenty-four hours be produced before a magistrate and shall not be further detained in custody without the magistrate’s authority.”

The police behaviour amounts to arbitrary arrest and detention. It clearly contradicts Article 5 of the Federal Constitution and the core principle of rule of law established to ensure democracy. It is akin to the characteristic of dictatorships and police states which we all so despise. The right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention is a very fundamental principle recognised the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, namely in Article 3 that “[e]veryone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,” and in Article 9 that “[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. Malaysia, as a member of the United Nations, has the obligation to prevent the commission of such grave human rights violation.

Police’s extrajudicial use of force

It is extremely unacceptable and disappointing that the police Light Strike Force personnel has resort to extrajudicial physical violence and extreme force against the defenceless protestors. Informants had claimed that the detainees were forcefully pushed and beaten during the arrest. The abusive behaviour went on even after the police had secure the arrest – some of the detainees’ face were covered with clothes and beaten on the face by the police.  In addition, the female detainees had claimed that they were denied access to water when asked for it. The police swiftly dismissed their request with an unacceptable answer – “tak ada budget (no budget).”

SUARAM and BERSIH are extremely appalled by such sickening abuse of power by the police and gross violation of the people’s rights to liberty as guaranteed in the constitution. This incident raises yet again the question of police accountability and further heightens public mistrust of the police force. We reiterate the public demand for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). The government and the police cannot act without accountability and transparency for this is a democratic country and the people’s demand should always come first. Those who participate in the rally are not criminals, they are people with genuine concern of the future of the country and the welfare of the people, especially those who will be seriously affected by the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. It is ashamed that the government has chosen to resort to such disgraceful method in addressing the issue that most Malaysians so concerned and worried about.

SUARAM and BERSIH 2.0 hereby demands the authorities to:

1. Immediately release all 25 detainees from Shah Alam detention centre and cease investigation against all those involved in the demonstration.

2. Conduct investigation against police officers who broken and violated the standard operation procedure in handling public gatherings and those who committed unlawful extrajudicial use of force; and to hold the police accountable.

3. Address the issue of systematic abuse of power by police by establishing an independent oversight mechanism to investigate police malfeasance and take necessary disciplinary measures.

 

Released by,

Maria Chin Abdullah
Chairperson,
BERSIH 2.0

 

Serene Lim

Program Coordinator

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

 

Abuse of Power and Criminal Procedure Proves Draconian Law A Threat To Human Rights in Malaysia

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) expresses our utmost concern and outrage towards the recent arbitrary crackdown against participants of #KitaLawan rally by police . Not only does it mark a severe infringement on our constitutional rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, it is an abuse of power and the criminal justice system by the authorities in this country, whose rightful duty is to serve and protect the interest of the public.

The police has disregarded the Court of Appeal’s ruling on Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act which held that the 10-days notice requirement is unconstitutional and what is “fundamentally lawful cannot be criminalised“. They have gone ahead with their subjective interpretation and still maintain that the law remains applicable. Furthermore, despite Section 7 of the House of Parliament clearly provides that no Member of Parliament is liable for civil or criminal proceedings for things said within the Chambers, yet the police had arrested MP Nurul Izzah for an allegedly seditious statement she made in Parliament.

It has been more than a month after the Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy conviction was upheld by the Federal Court and he was sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment on 10 Feb 2015. Given the momentous interest in the Anwar’s Sodomy II verdict, discussion and discourse on the Federal Court’s decision is not only inevitable, but a right that every citizens in a democratic society is entitled to. Instead of opening up the space for a healthy public discourse and debate on the issues, the authorities have resorted to threats and criminal prosecution.

Investigation under the Sedition Act 1948 for comments made on Federal Court’s decision

No

Name

Investigated On

1 Zunar – Cartoonist 10 Feb 2015
2 2 university students 18 Feb 2015
3 Fariz Musa – Activist Feb 15
4 S. Arutchelvan – PSM Secretary-General 19 Feb 2015
5 Lawrence Jayaraj – Activist 20 Feb 15
6 Nga Kor Ming – Taiping MP 23 Feb 2015
7 Rafizi Ramli – Pandan MP 23 Feb 2015
8 Dr Afif Bahardin – PKR Deputy Youth Chief 27 Feb 2015
9 Ng Wei Aik – Tanjong MP 6 Mar 2015
10 Nurul Izzah – Lembah Pantai MP 16 Mar 2015

 

Investigation for involvement in the #KitaLawan Rally

No

Name

Investigated On

1 Saifullah Zulkifli – Activist 7 Mar 2015
2 Nik Nazmi – Selangor EXCO 8 Mar 2015
3 Fariz Musa – Activist 10 Mar 2015
4 Rafizi Ramli – Pandan MP 10 Mar 2015
5 Mohd Fakhrulrazi – PAS Member 11 Mar 2015
6 Teo Kok Seong – Rasah MP 14 Mar 2015
7 Adam Adli – Activist 14 Mar 2015
8 Mandeep Singh – Activist 14 Mar 2015
9 Jayathas – Activist 17 Mar 2015

SUARAM reiterates that there is absolutely no legitimate grounds for the investigation of those allegedly involved in the #KitaLawan rally under Section 143 of the Penal Code and Peaceful Assembly Act. It was a peaceful gathering among Malaysians who shared the same sentiments for reform in the country. And that the Sedition Act is an absolutely archaic piece of legislation that left an excessive amount of discretion in the hand of authorities to criminalise even the slightest voice of dissent.

How then can we expect that the passage of the new Prevention of Terrorism bill (POTA) and amendment to the Sedition Act, which would essentially expand the power and discretion exercisable by the police, be used responsibly and not to clampdown on dissent?

The Home Minister has felt obliged to add that “the Prevent of Terrorism Act would not be used as a political tool to silence critics.” For the thousands of victims of detention without trial in Malaysia who number more than 10,000 since 1960, his assurance in an interview rings hollow. The recent crackdown against those involved in the #KitaLawan rally and remand process is yet again another explicit example of gross abuse of Criminal Procedure Code by the police. While anti-terrorism measures are necessary in light of the rising global threat by radical extremist, we fear that if POTA and amendment to the Sedition Act were to be enforced, the new law will bring about even more transgressions of human rights that are already severely violated in this country. Therefore,

1. SUARAM hereby calls on the police to cease all forms of harassment against Malaysians for practising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and to stop abusing the criminal procedure;

2. We urge the government to repeal the Sedition Act that is susceptible to abuse by the authority, to halt investigations and to drop charges against those who merely express their opinions;

3. We further call on the Home Minister and Parliament to review the new bill on POTA and to re-evaluate its consequences to the rights and freedom of the people in this country.

 

Released by,

Serene Lim

Program Coordinator

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

Home Minister Misleading The Country On The Proposed Prevention Of Terrorism Act (POTA)

Press statement by Dr Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser

The Government’s attempt to bring back detention without trial in the guise of the proposed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) purportedly to contain terrorists is as disingenuous as it is misleading.

The Home Minister is misleading the country on fundamental issues:

POTA IS GROSS COMPARED TO ANTI-TERRORISM LAWS IN OTHER COUNTRIES

The Home Minister tries to give the impression that other countries have introduced detention without trial under their anti-terrorism laws. This is far from the truth. The citizens of UK and the US, for example, would never accept detention without trial as part of the Prevention of Terrorism Act for it is a complete abomination of the rule of law.

In the UK, there is no detention without trial but rather, cancellation of passports of suspected terrorists and restricting such persons to geographical areas, very much like our Restriction laws. In 2004, although the UK House of Lords accepted that there was a ‘public emergency’, they found this state of emergency did not justify discriminatory counter-terrorism measures under which foreign nationals, (although not British nationals), could be detained without trial.

The US does detain foreigners without trial in camps such as Guantanamo Bay but no US citizen can be subject to detention without trial. The US Homeland Security Act 2002 was clearly a response to the Sept 11, 2001 attack on the New York World Trade Centre. But the US did not introduce detention without trial against US citizens. The Act has been criticized by civil liberties defenders for its Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System), a setback to civil liberties protections such as the right to privacy and obstructing public access to information.

In Australia, the Australian Government has introduced more than 40 new counter-terrorism laws since 2001. These laws have created new criminal offences, new detention and questioning powers for police and security agencies, new powers for the Attorney-General to proscribe (ban) terrorist organisations, and new ways to control people’s movement and activities without criminal convictions. The Anti-Terrorism Act 2004 introduced special powers for the Australian Federal Police to question terrorism suspects without charge. These powers mean that upon arrest for a terrorism offence a person can be detained without charge for the purpose of investigating whether the person committed the terrorism offence for which he or she was arrested and/or another terrorism offence that an investigating official reasonably suspects the person committed. A person can only be detained for four hours, unless a magistrate extends the period of detention. However, the magistrate cannot extend the period of detention for more than 20 hours. Therefore, the maximum period of time that a person can be detained for questioning is 24 hours. Thus, there is no detention without trial of Australian citizens in the way proposed under POTA, for two years!

THE RIGHT OF EVERY HUMAN BEING TO A FREE TRIAL

The right of every person to a fair trial is protected under international human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘the ICCPR’) and the Convention against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (‘CAT’). Countries which have ratified these treaties are bound to protect this fundamental right to a free trial. Malaysia has still not ratified these treaties!

By cloaking detention without trial in the proposed POTA under the misleading tag that “Malaysia will join the ranks of other countries that have in place anti-terrorism laws”, the Home Minister is guilty of grossly misleading the country. Let us not forget that we already have detention without trial laws including the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) and the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (PCA) as well as the Penal Code that was crafted through the years when the country underwent an Emergency from 1948 to 1960.

DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL WILL SURELY BE ABUSED

As if with a guilty conscience, the Home Minister felt obliged to add that “the Act would not be used as a political tool to silence critics.” For the thousands of victims of detention without trial in Malaysia who number more than 10,000 since 1960, his assurance in an interview rings hollow. We remember when Tun Razak gave the assurance in Parliament during the passage of the ISA in 1960 that the Act would only be used against “communist terrorists”. Dr. Mahathir certainly did not care to refer to his old Hansards or care very much about what Tun Razak had assured in 1960 when he unleashed Operation Lalang in 1987. Does the Home Minister’s word today carry more gravitas than Tun Razak’s in 1960?

HOME MINISTER SHOULD NOT TRY TO COVER UP INCOMPETENCE

The Home Minister should not try to cover up the incompetence of our police and intelligence services by bringing in convenient laws which allow detention without trial. When we bear in mind that the alleged Malaysian terrorists who have been killed recently in Indonesia and the Philippines had never been detained without trial in Malaysia, it points to a shocking oversight by our police and intelligence services. On the other hand, when we ask how many of the more than 10,000 ISA detainees through the years had been charged for terrorism crimes, the case for POTA fails miserably.

[JOINT STATEMENT]: Burmese Human Rights Activists Detained At Airport, Banned from Entering Malaysia

ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC) / ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) 2015 Malaysian National Organising Committee and SUARAM strongly condemns the arrest, detention, deportation and violence behavior against Aung Naing Win, better known as Shine, the Myanmar based human rights activist that has been campaigning for democracy and interfaith relationships/marriages in his country. He was deported back to Myanmar on 23 January 2015, 2 days after his flight landed in Malaysia.

Shine, a Burmese Muslim, works as a Country Coordinator for Malaysian Relief Agency (MRA) in Myanmar as well as a Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Coalition on Aid in Myanmar. Shine was on his way to participate in the third regional consultation meeting for ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC) / ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) 2015, held in Selangor on 23 and 24 January. The ACSC/APF is an annual forum of civil society organisation in ASEAN Member States, which is held as parallel meeting to the ASEAN Summit of Heads of State. And this year, a coalition of Malaysian civil society organizations coordinated by SUARAM and Pusat KOMAS are hosting the forum in Malaysia.

Shine arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on the night of 21st January at around 8.15 pm and was stopped and detained by the immigration department. The immigration officer, however, did not inform Shine why he was denied entry to Malaysia. When first asked by Shine’s friend, the immigration officer explained that it was a case of mistaken identity because he shares the same name as another person on the blacklisted name list. The immigration department said that they would investigate the case and release him the next day. Nonetheless, when contacted again the next morning, the immigration officer took a different stance and held that Shine is blacklisted and will be deported back to Myanmar. This came as a shock as Shine has been travelling abroad with legitimate documents and he is a frequent traveller to Malaysia for meetings with MRA and for ASEAN People’s Forum regional consultations meetings without any issues from immigration.

When contacted, Shine allegedly reported that he was not given any food and water by the officer for more than 12 hours. Shine further said when he asked for food and water from immigration officer in the midnight, instead of attending to his need, the officer named “Fiqri” allegedly slapped and punched him in from of all other 100 over detainees. Shine’s attempt to rationalise with the officer was blatantly ignored and worst yet, the beating and punching went on and on. After the first phone call to Shine on 23 January morning, the immigration officer had then prohibited lawyers and friends from speaking to Shine for “security” reasons.

We strongly object to such ill-treatment and abuse of power by the immigration department. Whatever the allegations against him, the immigration officers, have no rights under national or international law to abuse Shine and deny him his rights. Such blatant abuse of power is unacceptable, unwarranted and unjustifiable. There are absolutely no legitimate grounds for blacklisting Shine or detaining him. It is ludicrous to hold a human rights activist as a threat to “security” and subject him to ill-treatment by enforcement officers.

Malaysia has had a horrendous track record in its brute treatment and gross abuse of power, especially by law enforcement officers, towards foreigners, be it asylum seekers, refugees or migrant workers. The inhumane action and blatant disregard of national laws guarding individual liberty by the immigration department is in fact convicting a widespread belief that the officers had failed to uphold their role as public servants. Instead, such abusive behavior, by the officers is in fact a threat to our freedom and liberty that were fundamental to a healthy and democratic society.

Such incident should not have happened especially since Malaysia is now the Chair of ASEAN and will be hosting a series of important ASEAN meetings in Malaysia, including two ASEAN Summits in 2015. The act of the Immigration Department of Malaysia is not only shameful, but a serious violation of the ASEAN Charter that guarantees respect and protection of human rights for all ASEAN citizens. As the Chair of ASEAN, the government must lead by example and uphold the ASEAN Charter by investigating and bringing the immigration officers accountable for violent abuse and ill-treatment against Shine to justice.

The ACSC/APF 2015 Malaysian National Organising Committee and SUARAM also calls on the government to investigate and explain publicly the blacklisting, arrest and detention of Shine. Otherwise, Shine should be removed from the blacklist.

 

Released by,

 

Jerald Joseph

Co-Chair

ACSC/APF 2015 Malaysian National Organising Committee

 

Serene Lim

SUARAM

Program Coordinator