Police must respect liberties and institutions

    Critics say force lacks appreciation of basic constitutional liberties.

    FMT Reporters | March 25, 2015

    KUALA LUMPUR: Today, as it celebrates its 208th Anniversary, questions are being asked about the direction of the Royal Malaysian Police Force under the leadership of Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar.

    One major criticism of Khalid and his force is their lack of appreciation of basic constitutional liberties, particularly the freedoms of speech and assembly.

    Pointing to its stated vision of facilitating a “safe and prosperous Malaysia”, critics tend to question the means employed by the police force in the performance of its duties and powers.

    Many observe that its primary and only targets appear to be opposition lawmakers and critics of the government of the day.

    Politicians Nurul Izzah Anwar, Rafizi Ramli, Dr Afif Bahardin (all of PKR), Nga Kor Ming (DAP) and S Arutchelvan (PSM) lawyer Eric Paulsen and cartoonist Zunar are among those who have earned the wrath of the police recently, allegedly for seditious comments made.

    Khalid is even prone to directly engaging with those whom he perceives to be trouble-makers.

    The most recent example was when human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen, arrested a second time for remarks made on Twitter, was told by Khalid to “watch his habit and mouth” in making comments on “sensitive issues” such as religion. See FMT report Eric Paulsen held for sedition again on IGP’s order published on March 22.

    Upon his release, Paulsen was quoted by the Malaysian Insider as saying that he will not be “cowed by bullies”.

    Khalid, however, appears undeterred by being branded as such.

    He appears keen to exercise supervisory control over free speech in the country.

    “There’s a limit to freedom of speech. We don’t want a repeat of racial tension and I believe in prevention rather than cure,” he said, as reported by the Malay Mail today.

    He also claims a need to monitor sedition online because “most of the irresponsible politicians and NGOs have a large following.”

    His detractors, however, claim that Khalid tends to overstep the law in the purported exercise of his powers – even to the extent of defying hallowed institutions of state such as Parliament and the Courts.

    On March 16, the police arrested and detained Nurul Izzah overnight for an allegedly seditious speech which she made in Parliament. FMT reported Nurul Izzah the following day as describing her arrest as “completely unnecessary, malicious, unlawful and an assault on the institution of Parliament,” leading veteran opposition lawmaker Lim Kit Siang to describe it as contempt of Parliament. In a speech made in Parliament, Lim called for Khalid to be hauled up to purge the contempt.

    Lawyers also point to the police force’s continued treatment of spontaneous public assemblies as an offence despite the fact that Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act, 2012 was struck down by the Court of Appeal in April last year as being unconstitutional.

    Lawyer Syahredzan Johan says that as a matter of law, the police are obliged to adhere to the Court of Appeal’s decision despite the fact that an appeal from it is pending in the Federal Court.

    “So long as the court has declared a provision as unconstitutional, and so long as that decision is not overturned, then it is good law,” he said, reported by the Malay Mail.

    “The police cannot ignore a court decision. It would be contemptuous on their part to do so,” he warned.

    Yesterday, in conjuction with Police Day celebrations, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Noor Rashid Ibrahim said that the police force was endeavouring to increase its engagement with society.

    Critics say that they ought to start by endearing themselves to the community.

    SOURCE www.freemalaysiatoday.com