Call on Police to end the controversy with women organisations on domestic violence police reports and to discontinue its "tough" and intimidating responses, including investigations for the offence of "false news"

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday):
I am very concerned that Section 8A of the Printing Presses and Publications Act on the offence of publishing "false news" is again being used, this time in connection with an article in page 2 of the New Straits Times dated July 2, 1997 under the heading "Making sure women are protected under Domestic Violence Act" by Shareem Amry.

I have gone on public record to express my dismay at the response and reaction of the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Nor, to complaints by the Minister for National Unity and Social Development, Datin Paduka Zaleha Ismail and by women groups about the generally unsympathetic police atittude refusing to entertain reports of domestic violence.

I had described Rahim Noor’s reaction to the complaints as most insensitive and even offensive, as if Zaleha and the women groups’ were dangerous anti-national elements out to destroy not only the credibility of the police forces but the very security of the nation.

In actual fact, what the Minister and women groups were trying to do was to highlight the problem of the attitude of police personnel who have not been able to catch up with changing times after Parliament had criminalised domestic violence and who continue in their past habits of advising victims of domestic violence to go home and make peace with their husbands.

After a most unnecessary controversy, stemming from an overly-sensitive reaction on the part of the Inspector-General of Police, I had thought that the issue had settled down with the IGP declaring on July 4 that "every policeman had been trained to accept the reports by the victims, trivial or serious" and that policemen had been warned that "failure to accept the reports would invite severe punishment", including being charged under section 217 of the Penal Code, which carries a two-year prison term and a fine, upon conviction.

Everybody had hoped the controversy had the "silver lining" in at last ensuring that the police would take the issue of domestic violence seriously and that a new page would begin on this matter.

It is with dismay, therefore, for me to learn that the repercussions of this controversy had not run it full course yet and that the reporter, Shareem Amry, who wrote the "news analysis" article "Making sure women are protected under Domestic Violence Act" is being investigated by the police under Section 8A of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, i.e. with regard to the offence of publishing "false news".

I had re-read the article by Shareem Amry and I cannot by any stretch of imagination conceive how a police investigation under Section 8A of the Printing Presses and Publications Act could be initiated at all, as Shareem had not published any "false news" but only wrote a news analysis and round-up of the controversy. Shareem Amry even ended the article on a positive note.

Women organisations have complained that representatives of NGOs and political parties have been questioned by the police, in some cases, for hours at a time, about purported false allegations against the police.

The Police should accept the bona fides of the women organisations who wanted to seek justice for victims of domestic violence, wind down its controversy with the women organisations and discontinue all its "tough" and highly intimidatory tactics as if women organisations are no different from the most hard-core thugs in the country.

I therefore call on the Police to call off all investigations against representatives of NGOs, political parties and the press arising from the recent controversy and to work with them in a spirit of amity and co-operation to enforce the Domestic Violence Act.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong