(Magistrates Court, KL, Monday): I
have specially made a point to attend the Kuala Lumpur magistrate’s court
where Ng Shin Cheong, a DAP member, was charged for the following offence:
Although this is a minor offence, it is a major charge affecting the fundamental human rights of Malaysians and the proper conduct and behaviour of the police in their relationship with the Malaysian public.
DAP leaders want to meet the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, to strongly protest against the high-handed police action in disrupting the "Gathering of Legal Eagles" in sympathy, support and solidarity with Lim Guan Eng at Federal Hotel yesterday.
When closing the four-day Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations Conference at the Putra World Trade Centre yesterday, former Deputy Prime Minister and former Chairman of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Tan Sri Musa Hitam, said that "the human rights cause seems to be the winner" in the Asian economic turmoils, saying that this is one aspect not mentioned much in the wake of the downturn.
It is true that Thailand, South Korea and even Indonesia have chalked up progress on human rights and political reforms as a result of the Asian economic turmoils, as there can be no effective economic changes without meaningful political reforms.
Malaysia is the sole exception, and the deplorable police action to disrupt the "Gathering of Legal Eagles" yesterday is an ominous example that instead of greater opening up to ensure that human rights is the winner, the reverse is taking place in Malaysia - with the show of excessive brute force to try to cow Malaysians into silence!
What is most shocking is that the OCPD of Dang Wangi, Zainal Abidin bin Ali, who was in charge of the police operation yesterday, adopted the mentality that the peaceful and law-abiding lawyers and other concerned Malaysians who want to have an intellectual discussion on the far-reaching implications of the Lim Guan Eng case on human rights, civil liberties and democracy should be regarded as dangerous elements warranting the demonstration of naked brute force, with some hundred police and federal reserve unit members armed with baton and shields to surround and swarm through the hotel, literally turning it into a war zone.
Was such a naked brute show of force by the police warranted by the occasion. Was the police really expecting the peaceful and law-abiding members of the legal fraternity and general Malaysian citizenry to go on a riot at the Federal Hotel yesterday?
If the police could over-react in such a shocking manner to a small crowd of peace-loving and law-abiding citizens, mobilising fully-armed police personnel and federal reserve unit, is it any wonder that there is a legion of allegations about police abuse of power, such as assaults and brutalities in police lock-ups.
I am quite disappointed by the coverage of some newspapers which gave the impression that the DAP had courted trouble by not applying for a police permit for the "Gathering of Legal Eagles", failing to report that the DAP had complied with the conventional police practice in the Federal Territory for such gatherings and that this was not the first, but the sixth such public meeting of Sympathy, Support and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng in Kuala Lumpur in the past two months since the Court of Appeal jugdement on April 1, 1998.
These Sympathy, Support and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng round-table conferences/forums/ceramahs/dinners whether held in Kuala Lumpur or in other parts of the country - and to date, more than 40 had been held - were not secret or underground but open and public meetings, openly publicised and a few were even advertised.
For every Sympathy, Support and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng function in Kuala Lumpur, we had always complied with the conventional practice in Kuala Lumpur of informing the relevant police district, and at every such conference, the police had personnel present.
The same conventional practice was also used for the Gathering of Legal Eagles. The DAP National Organising Secretary and MP for Cheras, Tan Kok Wai, wrote an official letter to the OCPD of Dang Wangi, Zainal Abidin bin Ali, on May 21 informing him of the Gathering of Legal Eagles to be held on May 31.
If the Police had decided to depart from its conventional practice and now wanted a specific application for a police permit, it should have given adequate notice to allow the new procedure to be complied with and not to spring a surprise at the last minute, and even more inexcusable, putting up a shocking display of naked brute police force, forgetting that the police are paid with taxpayers’ money to be the custodians of law and order and not to intimidate the ordinary citizenry!
I am also very disappointed by some press reports which failed to report that it was the provocative conduct of the OCPD, Zainal Abidin, which created tension yesterday. I had accepted his request to help ask the crowd to disperse and had asked to use the hailer to inform the crowd that the meeting was being called off, but after giving me the hailer , Zainal rudely snatched the hailer from me.
Berita Harian and the Chinese newspapers carried this correct
version of events. Berita Harian for instance reported:
"Kit Siang sebelum itu diminta oleh Zainal Abidin membantu mengarahkan penyokong yang berkumpul di luar bilik supaya bersurai, selepas ingatan berulang kali oleh polis bahawa perhimpunan itu haram, tidak diendahkan."
All I had said was "Good morning", which was greeted with applause by the crowd, which apparently angered Zainal, who then rudely snatched away the hailer from me, leading to a tussle as well the raising of tempers all-round. The first priority of any police officer when handling the public is to defuse public tempers, but Zainal did the opposite - inflaming public tempers which had not existed.
There was no tact, no patience and no public relations whatsoever!
The Police should use the case yesterday as an example how Police Officers should not conduct themselves when dealing with the Malaysian public. Something is very wrong with the crisis-management techniques of the Malaysian police when a gathering which could have been amicably dispersed, especially as I had offered my full assistance and co-operation, should degenerate into deplorable display of police abuse and excess of power.
It is such police manhandling utterly insensitive of the people’s rights
and aspirations for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance which
has brought disrepute to Malaysia’s international image, as yesterday’s
incident was reported in the international media, like the
AFP report, under the heading: Malaysian police forcefully break-up opposition
forum which said:
"Some 100 police and federal reserve unit members armed with batons and shields surrounded a city centre hotel where the forum was being held, as members of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) argued that the gathering was permissible.
"Many left when police entered the hotel's banquet hall due to hold the meeting but those who stayed behind booed when told to leave."
Even Paris Radio from France telephoned to report about the incident yesterday.
I said yesterday that the DAP would officially apply for a police permit for the holding of the adjourned "Gathering of Legal Eagles", and announcement of the details of such a forum to discuss the issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance highlighted by the Lim Guan Eng case would be made when they have been finalised.