KUALA LUMPUR, 20 May 2009: The continued arrests of people taking part in peaceful assemblies since 5 May should stop immediately, and the police force should be reformed, several civil society groups urged today.
Seven civil society groups including the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) and Coalition for Good Governance (CGG) held a press conference to condemn the arbitrary detention of 126 people since 5 May.
They urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to reform the police force immediately and demanded the resignation of Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Musa Hassan. Bersih had previously called for Hishammuddin to step down over the arrests.
The other civil society groups are the Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement, Empower, Civil Society Initiative-Parliament, National Institute of Electoral Integrity and Amnesty International Malaysia.
“We are saddened and angered by the police force’s continued misconduct in abusing power, violating human rights and destroying rule of law in this country.
“Malaysians deserved a civilised, professional, and efficient police force,” said DAP Serdang Member of Parliament (MP) Teo Nie Ching, who read out the group’s statement in a press conference today. Representatives from the seven civil society groups were also present.
Most of the arrests were of those attending candlelight vigils to express concern over the Perak political crisis, and to show support for political scientist Wong Chin Huat, who was detained under the Sedition Act.
Teo and Teratai state assemblyperson Jenice Lee were among the 11 people arrested for taking part in a candlelight vigil mourning the death of democracy in Seputeh yesterday night.
They were released on police bail between 3 to 4am today and are required to report back to the police on 3 June.
In the statement, the civil societies urged the government to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) as recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Police Force immediately.
“Whether [Najib] likes it or not, the establishment of the IPCMC is now one of his most important Key Performance Indicators (KPI).
“It would be at his own peril that Najib chooses to ignore the fiasco created by the police force,” said Teo.
The civil society groups also demanded an unreserved apology by the government over “the series of politically-motivated arrest since 5 May aimed to silence critics”.
Denied legal access
Talking about her arrest, Teo who is also DAP Socialist Youth (Dapsy) deputy chairperson, said the police denied the detainees’ right to legal access by invoking Section 28A(8) of the Criminal Procedure Code. She said it now seems to be a trend for police to use this section to prevent detainees from getting legal help or contacting their families.
Also present to show support were Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Subang MP R Sivarasa, DAP’s assemblypersons Hannah Yeoh (Subang Jaya), Lau Weng San (Kampung Tunku) and Gan Pei Nei (Rawang).
Meanwhile, DAP has also urged the government to set up the IPCMC and for the IGP to apologise to the detainees for the unlawful detentions.
“[We] strongly condemn police intimidation and oppression … on behalf of Barisan Nasional to stifle dissent and suppress the truth,” said DAP National Publicity Secretary Tony Pua, who is also the MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, in a statement today.
“The Royal Malaysian Police should instead focus on its job at hand to fight rampant crime across the country, which in the past three weeks have reached an incredulous state, when victims have included MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and political secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister himself, Syahrin Jamaluddin,” said Pua.