(Petaling Jaya, Monday): I fully agree with the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) should investigate objectively into allegations of police brutality and vandalism at the peaceful gathering at Kesas Highway the previous Sunday on November 5.
I also agree with Abdullah that Suhakam must get information from all parties concerned, including reports, if any, of the manhandling of policemen.
Abdullah, who is also Home Minister, said that if the investigation was subjective it would not help to get a picture of what really happened.
To ensure that the Suhakam inquiry into police brutality and vandalism at the Kesas Highway peaceful assembly is objective and fair, and not subjective and one-sided, the Suhakam inquiry should be open and public so that it is not only fair and objective but seen to be fair and objective.
Abdullahís statement that he had asked the Inspector-general of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai to co-operate fully with Suhakam in its inquiry is most welcome, as I would be the first to defend the right of the police to give its version of events. I hope that this marks the beginning of greater police accountability to the public for its actions.
The Inspector-General of Police should give an undertaking that the police will give full co-operation to the Suhakam inquiry into police brutality and vandalism - including the manhandling of the police, if any - and not to obstruct the most wide-ranging investigation into all instances of violence, brutality and vandalism.
Norian should in particular give a public assurance that the government and the police would not invoke Section 12(2) of the Malaysian Human Rights Commission Act to bar or impede the Suhakam inquiry.
Section 12(2) of the Act bars the Commission from inquiring into any
complaint relating to any allegation of the infringement of human rights
which (a) is the subject matter of any proceedings pending in any court,
including any appeal; or (b) has been finally determined by any court.
This means that any Suhakam inquiry into human rights violations could be brought to an immediate halt by the government or the police under Section 12(2) by purporting to bring the subject-matter to court as under the Act, Suhakam "shall immediately cease to do the inquiry" if during the pendency of such inquiry the allegation becomes the subject matter of any proceedings in any court.
Norian should declare unequivocally that the authorities would not seek to stymie the Suhakam inquiry by the simple expedient of claiming that the matters coming within the inquiry was being taken to court.
On Thursday, Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Musa Hitam said that it was left to Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin, who is chairing the inquiry together with commissioners Tan Sri Simon Sipaun and Mehrun Siraj, to formulate the rules of the inquiry.
As former Chief Justice of Malaya and former chair of the Royal Commission into the black-eye and other injuries sustained by former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim while under police custody, Anuar knows better than anyone the importance of an open and public inquiry not only to inspire confidence in the impartiality, professionalism and integrity of the Suhakam inquiry and Suhakam but also to provide an invaluable education to all Malaysians with regard to the charter of Suhakam to protect and promote human rights.
The importance of the concept that justice be done openly is centuries-old, as the open examination of witnesses viva voce, in the presence of all mankind, is much more conducive to the clearing up of truth, than any private and secret examination.
Victims of police brutality and vandalism at the Kesas Highway on Nov.
5, 2000, as well as policemen who allege that they had been manhandled,
should be allowed to be represented by counsel to prove their case to the
Suhakam inquiry, so that Suhakam could come out with a finding and recommendations
to enable Malaysia to join the ranks of democratic and civilized nations
where citizenship rights of peaceful assembly are vibrant and living rights
and not just empty words in the Constitution.