Suaram: Cops’ professionalism undone by IGP threat

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 — Human rights NGO Suaram today raised concerns over a recent warning of impending action against anti-assessment hike protest organisers by the country’s top cop, arguing that such action would go against international and local conventions on freedom of assembly.

Suaram coordinator R. Thevarajan said whatever goodwill the police had earned through their professionalism in managing traffic and helping protestors submit objection letters at yesterday’s rally, was undone by the “threat” issued today by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar that action would be taken against the rally organisers.

“Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, fails to learn and realise the interest and suffering of the common people. People are protesting to voice out the dissatisfaction towards the rate hike on residents in the federal territory,” Thevarajan said in a statement today.

“The police force should take the stand to accommodate the protest which was to handover around 20,000 protest letters against the assessment hike in accordance to the interest of the public,” he added.

Earlier today, Khalid was quoted in a report as saying that action will be taken against the protest organisers.

“The protest or rally has been deemed illegal. If the organisers have broken the law, we will take necessary action. No one has been arrested so far,” Khalid was quoted as saying by The Star Online.

Thevarajan said the police must remember that the police would be breaking provisions that guarantee freedom of peaceful assembly under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia if it were to launch a probe on the protest organisers.

He added that use of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) 2012 is in clear contradiction of the UDHR and other international human rights instruments, and is “an obstacle to the legitimate exercise of the fundamental right to assemble peacefully”.

“Suaram urges the Royal Malaysian Police to discharge their duties in line with the provisions of the Federal Constitution and international human rights standards,” he said.

Around 300 property owners and residents took part in yesterday’s demonstration, organised by Pakatan Rakyat, in front of Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) headquarters, where they also asked for the resignation of KL Mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib.

Dang Wangi police chief ACP Zainuddin Ahmad later said that the rally organisers would be probed under the PAA, as they did not notify the police of their demonstration as required by the Act.

The proposed increase in assessment led to public outcry over the past two months, after homeowners received notices from DBKL informing them of hikes between 100 and 250 per cent to their existing annual rates.

The issue was exacerbated by the confusion arising from the conflicting announcements made that has left ratepayers uncertain over how much and when they must fork out for their bi-annual assessment payments.

 There are 507,800 properties listed under DBKL, 56 per cent or slightly over 284,300 are commercial structures while the remaining 44 per cent or around 223,400 are residential properties.