Yesterday’s newspapers reported for instance that all police personnel had been directed to arrest on sight 42 people, 37 of whose photographs the police had published in the media, as persons they wanted in connection with police investigations into the National Mosque demonstration on Sept. 19, 1999.
It was even reported that the "arrest-on-sight" directive had been issued
to police personnel manning entry and exit points in the country - giving
varying impressions that these wanted Malaysians are either "top criminals"
or akin to the ubiquitous illegal immigrants.
The Police should act with restraint and stop creating a manhunt atmosphere, turning 42 Opposition leaders, activists and supporters into "fearsome" fugitives from justice, when the police should give assurance that they would not be humiliated and there would be no abuse of powers.
Seven opposition leaders and activists, namely PKN Vice Chairman Tian Chua, PKN Youth leader Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor, former private secretary to Anwar Ibrahim, Azmin Ali, PKN Sabah Youth chief Dr. Badrul Amin Baharom, PAS Central Committee member, Dr. Hatta Ramli, PRM Legal Adviser Sivarasa Rasiah and former student leader Hishamuddin Rais were charged last Saturday under Section 27(5) of the Police Act for an unlawful assembly at the grounds of the national mosque on Sept. 19, 1999.
The charge of illegal assembly under Section 27(5) of the Police Act, on conviction, would entail a minimum mandatory fine of RM2,000 and the civic disenfranchisement from standing or holding any elective office, whether that of an State Assemblyman or Member of Parliament, of the accused.
All the seven had been remanded in the Dang Wangi Police Station lock-up from five to six days.
Was the remand of the seven in the police lock-up for five to six days necessary to enable the police to complete its investigations to frame charges against them under the Police Act, or was it a vengeful act on the part of the Police to humiliate the seven, as it is open knowledge that anyone thrown into a police station lock-up is deprived of his human dignity in being treated as less than a human being.
Apart from trying to humiliate the seven, can the Police make out a credible case that it must physically remand the seven in the police lock-up 24 hours a day for five or six days to enable the police to conduct its investigations, when all the seven would have fully co-operated with the police by appearing at the police station at the fixed dates and times for interrogation?
This episode reminds Malaysians how easily they could be thrown into police lock-ups from 24 hours to two weeks on the flimsiest of grounds, when they are totally at the mercy of the police. This is an area of police powers affecting the ordinary public which is most open to abuse, and which should be an important part of review of police powers in order to restore public confidence in the police as friend and protector of the people.
The Police should meet with the Keadilan leaders and lawyers in connection with the 42 persons it wanted for its investigations, fix the dates and times the police want to interrogate them and give firm assurance that the police would not abuse its powers or humiliate them by remanding them in the police lock-ups when there is no necessity or justification for such an action.